Author Archive

The Damnation of Memory

Do Not Forget, Remember and Warn!

Photographs of the National University Library of Sarajevo

by Miriam Nabarro

July 17- September 5 2014

Library opening times 9am – 11pm

Wolfson Gallery, SOAS Library, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0 XG


RSVP essential (It is a functioning University Library, so there will be a list on the door): Miriam Nabarro 07973151966

On this place…. Serbian criminals in the Night of 25-26th August 1992 set on fire the National and University’s Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over 2 Millions of Books, Periodicals and Documents Vanished in the Flames

Do Not Forget, Remember and Warn!’


So reads the plaque at the entrance to the historic Vijecnica, the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, which was destroyed by systematic shelling 25-26th August 1992.  Describing the burning of the library in his poem, Lament for Vijecinica in 1993, the Bosnian poet, Goran Simic writes:

The National Library burned for three days last August and the city was choked with black snow.

Set free from the stacks, characters wandered the streets, mingling with passer-by and the souls of dead soldiers

Fernando Baez describes the irreparable, deliberate destruction of the library through a term identified by Roman thinkers for cultural genocide: damnatio memoriae, or memory erasure: an act aimed specifically the eradicate the collective and multiple diverse histories of a people,a city, a country and a way of life.

Miriam Nabarro, the first Artist in Residence in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS,  photographed the library under reconstruction in 2006 and again in 2012. The exhibition consists of work printed by the artist with liquid emulsion on glass, suspended in precarious frames by FRAMEJUNKIE to let light in, causing the memory of the building to appear in elusive, ghostlike impermanence.

The newly renovated building reopened in April 2014 as part of the commemorations of the centenary of World War One, which was began when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed as he left the building.

The Damnation of Memory is at the Wolfson Gallery in School of Oriental and African Studies  (SOAS) University Library, which holds an invaluable and unparalleled collection of language, history and culture and acts as a collective meeting point for scholars and students.


Claudia Seymour, a Research Associate in the Development Studies department, has published a new piece on patrimonialism and resilience in eastern Congo. Her research draws on interviews with young people and this article focuses on the concept of being ‘zero in the court of nine to zero’ as explained to her by one of her interviewees.

Here is the abstract (full article is published in Children’s Geographies (2014)

“This article examines how young people living in the Kivu provinces, Democratic Republic of
Congo, attempt to engage with existing social support in their efforts to cope with protracted
structural and political violence. Through an examination of narrative, visual and written data,
this article describes how decades of violence have broken down traditional support structures,
leaving young people with few options for effective coping beyond engaging in patronage
relationships. This article examines how young people situate themselves in positions of
weakness in order to gain material support and protection as they attempt to cope with a
lack of material resources and other forms of insecurity.”





Miriam Nabarro, a Research Associate in our cluster, is creative associate for Helen Chadwick’s new show ‘War Correspondents’ which integrates quotations from journalists into a piece of song theatre. I went to see it last night in Hemel Hempstead (!). It is beautiful and thought-provoking: ‘war is like love, it will always find a way.’

There is a


Tour dates and other details are available here:

ODI talk

Posted: November 1, 2013 by zm2vpd in Uncategorized

Risky business: maintaining a presence in dangerous environments

8 November 2013 14:00 – 15:30 (GMT+00)

Venue:  Overseas Development Institute and streamed live online



As aid agencies move into increasingly complex and volatile environments, humanitarian organisations are struggling to strike a balance between ‘staying’ in insecure areas, and ‘staying safe’. Although attacks on aid workers are on the rise, the delivery of aid in war-torn countries continues to grow in reach and quantity, alongside the amount and array of organisations involved in aid delivery.

Aid agencies’ unprecedented exposure to risks has prompted a corresponding growth in a range of security initiatives. Fortified aid compounds, restrictive travel protocols, remote management – an attempt to operate from a safe distance through national and local field workers and subcontractors – and the use of private security companies have become commonplace safety and risk measures.

Far from improving programming and the safety of all aid workers, Paradoxes of presence argues that these security ‘fixes’ often fail to address the complex dilemmas and hazards that define the uncertain realities of being present and effective in conflict-affected countries. What risks are aid agencies willing to take? Who should shoulder the burden of risk? Drawing from research and operational experience in South Sudan and Afghanistan, speakers will address these pressing issues.


Sarah CollinsonResearch Associate, Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) and co-author of Paradoxes of Presence

Mark Duffield – Emeritus Professor, Global Insecurities Centre, University of Bristol and co-author of Paradoxes of Presence 

Marc DuBois – Executive Director, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) UK

Larissa Fast – Assistant Professor, Conflict Resolution, University of Notre Dame and co-founder of the Security in Numbers Database

Chair – Mike Thomson – Correspondent, BBC Today Programme


Info at:


Cluster meeting 24 October – Leena Kotilainen

Posted: October 10, 2013 by zm2vpd in Uncategorized

Our first VPD research cluster meeting will take place on 24 October, 4-5pm in B101. Our presenter is Leena Kotilainen. Please come along!

Pornography of violence, ethnography of emotions

Ethical challenges of reporting research findings from a post-conflict society


The purpose of the presentation is to address two interrelated ethical challenges in reporting research results from a post-conflict society: emotions and fair presentation.Firstly, the often neglected question of emotions is contemplated. Can a researcher have emotions? At first sight the question might seem peculiar, but is actually very relevant to any researcher working with traumatised people. Should researcher’s own emotions be revealed and reflected in the research output? How can the negligence or inclusion of emotions affect the research results?  Secondly, the challenges of reporting extreme violence are discussed: How to be fair to informants’ realities but not, at the same time, write a “pornography of violence”? These questions are reflected through research data collected in the period of four months in Liberia including over 120 background interviews, thousands of pictures and 26 photo interviews conducted with young female soldiers that took part in the country’s civil wars. 

*Humanitarianism: Past trends / future directions *

*This** summer series of talks at SOAS **will bring together academics and
practitioners to **discuss trends in humanitarian relief efforts and recent
contributions to humanitarian studies. Over the course of five days we will*
* **chart the evolution of humanitarianism, look at current developments
and tensions and seek to identify future directions and possibilities. **The
week will conclude with a panel of representatives of aid agencies invited
to address future challenges to humanitarian relief across borders on the
basis of their respective mandates and achievements.*

* *

*Monday 3rd June*

2-4pm B111:

Eleanor Davey (ODI Humanitarian Policy Group).

*History and Humanitarianism*

* *

*Tuesday 4th June*

2-4pm B111:

Professor Raymond Apthorpe.

*Why ‘aidand’ is a useful concept for anthropology and humanitarian studies*

* *

*Wednesday 5th June*

2-4pm FB01:

Dr Zoe Marriage

*Formal Peace and Informal War*

* *

*Thursday 6th June*

2-4pm B111:

Professor Johan Pottier

*When the evidence is ‘out there’: reflections on independent research in
Rwanda and eastern DRC*


*Friday 7th June*

2-4pm G51:

Panel including Mona Sadek (ICRC), Anne-Meike Fechter (Sussex),and others
to be announced.

*Future Challenges: where now for Humanitarianism?*


*Free and Open to All.*

Convened by Raymond Apthorpe (SOAS), Richard Axelby (SOAS) and Martin Webb (