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Testimony and Catastrophe: Narrating the Traumas of Political Violence

Testimony and Catastrophe: Narrating the Traumas of Political Violence
(Northwestern University Press, 2006) 

Testimony after Catastrophe is a deeply involving, compassionate, and occasionally confrontational blend of dialogic theory and practical experience emerging from the author’s decade-long work in Europe and Chicago with survivors of the Balkan wars.   Stevan Weine focuses on the hope survivors express again and again that, no matter what horrors or humiliations they have endured, some good might come of their stories. Weine examines testimonies from four historical nightmares of the twentieth century and, applying the theory of Mikhail Bakhtin, seeks to read them as the stories they are meant to be, fully conveying their legitimacy, resourcefulness, power—and, finally, hope. Caryl Emerson author of The First Hundred Years of Mikhail Bakhtin wrote: “Weine is a wonderfully graceful writer, and his subject matter is central to our time”. Jerrold M. Post, author of Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World, wrote, “Transcending a clinical approach, this pathbreaking book brings an interdisciplinary perspective to the testimony.”

 

When History is a Nightmare: Lives and Memories of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina

When History is a Nightmare: Lives and Memories of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina
(Rutgers University Press, 1999) 

Through the narratives and testimonies of Bosnian refugees who survived ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, this title demonstrates how ethnic cleansing has worked its way into people's lives and memories. Stevan M. Weine is a psychiatrist who has spent the past decade working with Bosnian survivors of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. As he listened to their testimonies, Weine concluded that these narratives were capable of bearing a complex truth about the horrific events in Yugoslavia that often were lost in more analytic works on the subject. When History is a Nightmare also explores how these traumatic events affected not just individuals, but an entire society and its culture. Weine investigates the survivors' attempts to reconcile the contrasting, collective memories of having lived in a smoothly functioning, multiethnic society with the later memories of the ethnic atrocities. He discusses the little-known group concept of merhamet. Denoting compassion, forgiveness, and charity, merhamet was a critical cultural value for the Bosnian Muslims. Weine also explores how ethnic cleansing was justified from the vantage point of psychiatrists who played prominent roles in instigating the horrors. He also provides personal portraits of leaders such as Jovan Raskovic and Radovan Karadzic. He concludes by describing the recovery efforts of survivors-how they work to confront the destructive nature of their memories while trying to bring about healing, both individually and collectively. Robert Coles, Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard, wrote: “An extraordinary effort, on the part of an American psychiatrist, to understand a terrible European tragedy that still puzzles and haunts us. The result is a compelling series of human documents – stories from Bosnia that will bring the suffering there close to our minds and hearts, awaken and inform us mightily.”