History

The Kosovo Oral History Initiative is a collective of researchers from different generations, nationalities, and competency levels. Our mission is to record life stories that intersect with the broader history of Kosovo and the world’s events.

The Initiative was conceived in the summer of 2012 from a collaboration between the Kosova Women’s Network (Pristina) and The New School for Public Engagement (New York City). Women researchers and activists from Pristina and New York came together that summer and discussed how they could rescue the voices and experiences of people—leaders and common folk—that Kosovo’s changeable official histories have condemned to amnesia. They wanted to go beyond the narratives of victimization and the straitjacket of group thinking by recovering the individual’s entire life history.

Using the seed funds from The New School and other private donors and with the support of Kosova Women’s Network, a group of volunteers began to film interviews. Their first project focused on the life stories of Albanian women, whose roles during times of war and peace have often been sidelined, if not entirely forgotten. The interviews were filmed and transcribed in Albanian, English, and Serbian, have been collected and archived on this website to be accessed by all.

In 2015, the Oral History Initiative became a fully independent organization and began to develop projects with broader research themes.

 

Images, Voices and Written Words

We are aware that the interviewers, by their very presence, have an influence on the interviewee. Filming the interviews further complicates the dynamic between the interviewee and the researcher because it increases the number of researchers that are present. There may be no way of neutralizing the distortions caused by this complex context. We have tried to minimize this problem by selecting interviewers who speak the same dialect as the interviewee and ask few, broad questions, that give priority to what the interviewee wants to say, rather than what she thinks the researcher wants to hear. Additional questions are asked to clarify or expand on what the interviewee discussed.

The transcripts from the interviews are written texts that reflect the speech patterns of the speaker, with the paragraphs and the punctuation that the transcriber decides in order to make sense of the narration. Translations move farther away from the orality of the source. They need to be understood as another layer of representation. The translations allow the interview to be accessed by a wider audience.

 

 

 

Why Oral History?

Oral storytelling tradition is a long-established cultural trait of Kosovo. It has preserved the history of individuals, families and the nations in the form of narratives and stories. It is a form of recording the past that has gained much scholarly credibility. Written and oral sources are not mutually exclusive. Oral history should interact and complement documents and various other written texts.

Oral history offers a unique perspective – a closer reflection from the viewpoint of the narrators, both the powerful and the powerless. It allows for contradictions, uncertainties and mistakes that reveal their anxieties, fears, aspirations and dreams. It includes a more lasting portrait of the collective through individual testimonies that recollect the intimate experiences within a family and the connection with a country. Through oral history we are building a visual archive for Kosovo – we take the orality of our sources very seriously.

To the public, we provide the opportunity to listen to the voices of people, catch the rhythm and the tone of speech, as well as see the visual expression of the feelings that underly their words. We also provide transcripts in multiple languages, which may betray the immediacy of orality, but expand the reach of the narrators’ experiences. Our goal is to add layers of representation to the history of a community that too often has been narrated in a simplistic and binary fashion.

Principles

We treat the interviews and the subjects of the interviews with sensitivity and respect. We do not claim to present their lives, just the stories they tell us about themselves.

STAFF

Erëmirë Krasniqi

Executive Director

Aurela Kadriu

Junior Researcher / Translator

Nataša Govedarica

Affiliated Researcher

Lura Limani

Affiliated Researcher

Kaltrina Krasniqi

Art Director

Hana Ahmeti

Financial Officer

Donjetë Berisha

Camera and Editing

Abit Hoxha

Affiliated Researcher

Dafina Tahiri

Web Manager / Translator

Ebru Süleyman

Affiliated Researcher

Chester Eng

English Language Proofreader

ADVISORY BOARD

Anna Di Lellio

President of the Board

Alessandro Portelli

Historian

Arbnora Dushi

Folklore Scholar

Sonja Biserko

President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

PARTNERS & DONORS