The Center for Public History launched a new project in 2019/2020. – “Voice for the future, not echoes from the past” – Mapping the Memory Sites in 10 Cities in Serbia”, which aims to raise awareness of existing models of collective memory and the legacy of the conflicting past, to preserve public space for social action and to transform memory sites as places of public interest.
Through a series of activities and concrete actions in local communities, the CPH team, in collaboration with 10 local organizations and activists, will organize an educational module on the topic of culture and memory politics, where participants will be introduced to the basic theory and practice of memory culture, how in Serbia, as well as in other post-conflict societies. Following the educational module, participants will work on mapping marked and unmarked sites related to the history of the ’90s in their local communities. The final event will mean the realization of public actions aimed at contributing to the visibility of these places in public. All project results and mapped sites will be presented at a public presentation in Belgrade.
What frames the life in Serbia today is a difficult heritage of wars in the 90s and war crimes; as well as collapsed institutions and devastation of even the most basic solidarity. Various societal inequalities are the consequence of the multiple factors which arise not only from the economic but also from the political, societal and cultural sub-systems, both in a shape of instability and ineffectiveness of institutions, political disinterest and passivity of citizens, and in dominant political culture and patterns and forms of values which are characterized by high authoritarianism and lack of tolerance and acceptance. The approach to recent past is dominated by the image of national martyrdom, feeling of being under threat and self-victimization; and most often the facts of the suffering and trauma of others (mostly other ethnic groups) are left out. When discussing wars and war crimes during the 90s, the relationship towards the past in Serbia is reduced to negation and disinterest and a discourse of martyrdom and feeling threatened (in the case of Kosovo). The consequence is fear, constitution of hate towards others into national identities, constantly present conflicts of small intensity within the region and within the countries. Considering that the youth in each society is a group that bears the biggest part of the burden of the development of society, it is especially worrying that there are no significant differences between “generation of the future” and other generations, not in the sense of their values, nor on any other socially relevant plane. This project aims to put in focus events from the past that are forbidden and forgotten in public space, provide the platform for discussion and to contribute to the process of enhancing dealing with the conflict past through the mechanism of symbolic reparations (which, besides other things, consider education about past, preservation of memory through monuments, memorial sites and oral histories).
The project is supported by the Open Society Foundation