Conflict Transformation Studies

Rethinking post-war conflict transformation

In divided societies emerging from war, public memory, monuments and cultural heritage can be used to create, silence, resurrect and preserve narratives of the past, shaping the perception of the past and thus impacting upon future generation’s understanding of conflict. We ask: how can a plurality of narratives be preserved to ensure empathy and recognition of the cultural heritage of war beyond one-sided, often radical, narratives?

These questions were central to our BU-funded educational project (see Fusion below) and the May 2016 international workshop ‘Re-Imagining Conflict Transformation: Making Memory Meaningful’ where academics from the LSE, Kings College, Edinburgh and Pristhina University as well as practitioners from NGOs in the Balkans presented their work. Presentations juxtaposed, for example, the framework of transitional justice against the realities on the ground.

The conflict transformation studies project is led by four BU scholars: Balkan specialist and social anthropologist Dr Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers (PI), Dark Tourism expert Dr Avital Biran, Transitional Justice scholar Dr Melanie Klinkner; and Associate Professor Feng Tian, an expert in computer graphics, computer animation, augmented reality and simulation.

Fusion Co-Creation Project involving students and partners in Kosovo

How do young visitors really experience  war monuments? Our interdisciplinary project aims to foster conflict transformation (reconciliation) by facilitating young people’s engagement with a plurality of narratives while simultaneously nurturing empathy and recognition of the cultural heritage of war via contemporary gaming technology.

In 2015-2016, a small scale project advancing our understanding into young people’s engagement with heritage sites and gaming involving interested student from different disciplines was launched. Students were involved in the process of story line development and game design based on post-war memory at selected sites in Kosovo. The collaboration included external stakeholders in post-war Kosovo, local students and colleagues of University of Prishtina, Human Rights activists, the British Council, site managers and artists.  With the creative abilities of all involved students and partners we seek to explore the potentials of ‘gaming’ for education and enhancing visitors’ experience at heritage sites. The project included a reserach visit to Kosovo in March 2016.

Academics from Pristina University, Balkan NGO partners, BU students and staff involved in the project presented their research findings at the international workshop entitled Re-Imagining Conflict-Transformation: Making Memory Meaningful in May 2016. Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers also presented some first project outcomes at a Roundtable of UCL’s Centre for Southeast European Studies on ‘Figuring Out the Enemy’ in April 2016, at Bologna University in May 2016 and together with four Anthropology students at the London Anthropology Day 2016 in June.

A project report emphasising the educational journey is in preparation.


List of BU Conflict Transformation Studies Events, Projects, Presentations and Conferences

  • Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers was an invited expert participant at the United States Institute of Peace RESOLVE network expert focus group held in Berlin on countering and preventing violent extremism in July 2016.
  • Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers was appointed as member of the supervisory board for the international project ‘Building knowledge of new statehood in Southeast Europe: Understanding Kosovo’s domestic and international policy considerations’. The project is funded by the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society and aims at supporting junior researchers to produce new knowledge about Kosovo statehood. ​
  • At the London Anthropology Day 2016 in June BU students Josie Beytell-Heron, Laura Grace, Gemma Knights and Papillon Bond-Williams co-presented with Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers ‘Anthropology After War – inside and outside perspectives’, a presentation inspired by their respective experiences and research in Kosovo.
  • Project lead Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers presented ‘New Approaches to Post-War Memory and Conflict Transformation in Kosovo: anthropological reflections on BU’s co-creative game design project’ at a public lecture at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Bologna, on 10 May, 2016.
  • Melanie Klinkner opened the international workshop ‘Re-imagining Conflict Transformation – Making Memory Meaningful’ with her talk ‘Towards Meaningful Memorialisation as part of Transitional Justice Efforts’ in May 2016.
  • A student Co-creative presentation with Laura Grace (BA Archaeology & Anthropology student), on the ‘Quests into post-war Kosovo’s memoryscapes: the interdisciplinary, anthropological and co-creative challenges of BU’s fusion project for a serious game’ featured at the ‘Re-imagining Conflict Transformation – Making Memory Meaningful’ in May 2016.
  • Avital Biran presented the key note address on ‘Touring Death – Negotiating Fear of Death through Tourism Consumption’ at the Terror on Tour Conference, on 7-8 April 2016 at the University of Chichester.
  • At the Bournemouth University Global Buzz Europe event in December 2015, the team leader presented her thoughts on ‘Conflict Transformation via gamification? a co-creative fusion project on war memory in Kosovo’ (17 December 2015).
  • In September 2015 the team (Schwandner-Sievers, S., Klinkner, M., Tian, F. and Biran, A.) gave a presentation on ‘Rethinking post-war reconciliation, memory and heritage via ‘gaming’ technology’ at the BFX Academic Conference 2015, 26-27 September 2015, Bournemouth University.
  • In September 2015 Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers and Avital Biran were invited contributors to the Memory Mapping Conference at the University of Prishtina, Kosovo. The event was sponsored by the Forum Civil Peace Service, Alter Habitus – Institute for Studies in Society and Culture and Oral History Initiative. Avital presented on visitors’ experiences of Holocaust Memorial and Stephanie’s contribution reflected on the cultural reproduction of Nationalism and the politics of symbols in Kosovo.
  • Two Undergraduate Research Assistants conducted research into the prerequisites of reconcilation for a Reconciliation-in-Practice outreach simulation exercise held as part of the Festival of Learning in summer 2015.
  • The team presented its overarching research concept at Bournemouth University’s Interdisciplinary Week on 12 May 2015 with an interactive session on Transforming conflict after war: memory, heritage and digital media.