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Genocide Studies


This research guide was created to supplement the lectures presented on November 14 and 15, 2019 with András Riedlmayer, sponsored by the History Department, Islamic Studies, Preservation, Global Studies, European Studies, and the Libraries, Museums and Press. 

Nov. 14 evening lecture: "A European Islam in the Balkans: History, 'Ethnic Cleansing' and the Search for Justice"

Since ancient times, Southeastern Europe has been a crossroads, where the great empires and religious and cultural currents of the Mediterranean world have met and interacted with each other and with rich indigenous traditions. The long history of cultural interactions has given this region a remarkable legacy, including a still thriving, 600-year-old Islamic tradition, a part of European heritage that deserves to be better known.

The Balkan wars of the 1990s were an attempt to erase this diversity. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 150,000 and the forced exile of millions of people, singled out for persecution, expulsion, and genocide because of their cultural and religious identity. The violence against people was accompanied by systematic attacks on their heritage: the targeted destruction of historic buildings, houses of worship, manuscript libraries, and archives. A Council of Europe report in 1993 termed it "a cultural catastrophe in the heart of Europe."  

Based on Mr. Riedlmayer’s fieldwork for the UN war crimes tribunal, his presentation outlines the history of this region’s diverse cultural heritage, as well as his findings concerning its fate in the 1990s wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, and efforts to bring to justice those criminally responsible for this destruction.

Nov. 15: ”Memory after Genocide: From Armenian Memorial Books to Yizkor Books to Facebook”

 The ‘ethnic cleansings’ and genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries have resulted in the destruction of people and of entire communities and of their history and culture. In this presentation, we will briefly explore attempts by exiled survivors to recover and preserve the memory of their loved ones and of the landmarks and histories of their lost home towns and villages. We will look at a number of examples of such efforts, ranging from communal memorial books (houshamadyan) produced by survivors of the 1915-1918 Armenian genocide, to the memorial books (yizker-bikher) published by hometown associations of Jewish Holocaust survivors, to the memorial blogs and websites created by refugees from the Bosnian genocide in the early days of the Internet, to the Facebook pages that seek to preserve the personal and communal memories of people fleeing the current carnage in Syria. All of these raise questions about the nature of history and memory and of the permanence of the historical record.

András Riedlmayer : A native of Budapest, Hungary, András Riedlmayer has directed the Documentation Centre for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University’s Fine Arts Library since 1985. He studied at the University of Chicago and at Princeton University, where he read Ottoman history and Near Eastern Studies. He has published widely in academic and professional journals and has served as president of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association and as a member of the board of the Islamic Manuscript Association.

For the past 25 years, Mr. Riedlmayer has been documenting the destruction of libraries, archives and other cultural heritage in the Balkan wars and in organizing postwar assistance to cultural institutions in the region. In 2002, he appeared as an expert witness on cultural destruction in the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević at the UN war crimes tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague. Since then, he has testified in several other cases before the ICTY, including the trials of former Bosnian Serb leader Dr. Radovan Karadžić and his military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladić, and in the genocide case brought by Bosnia-Herzegovina against Serbia before the International Court of Justice. Between 2003 and 2007 he chaired the Middle East Librarians' Association’s Committee on Iraqi Libraries.


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