This summer, international relations and Spanish major Kristine Adams '16 and politics major Scott MacNeil '17 are spending ten days in Bosnia conducting research with politics professor Erik Cleven. From the field, their reporting about their travels and research.
Last semester, we took Professor Erik Cleven’s Political Violence class together and studied much of the prominent literature in the field.
At the end of the academic year, Professor Cleven approached us and asked us if we wanted further our classroom experiences and join him in Bosnia as his research assistants for 10 days during the summer. We were thrilled and immediately jumped at the opportunity to conduct undergraduate student research! Not only would we have chance to travel to Eastern Europe and to get to know our professor on a more personal level, but we would also be running our own interviews and potentially publish an article of our findings! Talk about a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity and a helpful step on the path to graduate/law school.
The research we are conducting pertains to ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia between the different populations living here (mainly Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs). On July 1st, we landed in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and traveled through the beautiful, mountainous countryside to where we would be staying for the duration of our journey. Later that evening, we arrived in Mostar, a city in the southern region of the country. Mostar is a beautiful city, but was also one of the most destroyed cities during the war of the mid-1990’s. The city is noted for the “Old Mostar Bridge,” which actually was entirely destroyed during the conflict. They later built an exact replica using photographs of the original bridge. Despite the violence, the city has rebounded quite nicely over the last 20 years, and has become a very popular tourist location, especially among Europeans.
The research we are doing alongside Professor Cleven is quite important. Mostar, (one of the interview cites) is split by a river, where Bosniaks live on one side, and Croats on the other. This physical division represents the divided state of inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are in the region to see how young people in these groups interact with one another and whether or not projects exist to facilitate more dialogue between the groups. During this process, we are also gathering other bits of information regarding the region, the conflict, and the way of life here. One thing that we have definitely learned is that coffee is a huge part of the culture here. Most social gatherings, regardless of people's age, nationality, or gender, revolve around sharing a cup of Turkish coffee.
On this research trip, we are gaining knowledge about a part of the world that many Americans do not know a lot about. With our research, we hope to challenge people’s assumptions about the region with our work and shed light on a lovely and complex culture, unlike any we have seen before.