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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.”

 

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