The Kosovo Oral History Initiative is a collective of researchers of different generations, nationalities and competences, whose mission is to record life stories that intersect with the broader history of Kosovo and world events. The Initiative was born in the summer of 2012 from a collaboration between the Kosova Women’s Network (Pristina) and The New School for Public Engagement (NY), when a few women researchers and activists from Pristina and New York came together and discussed how to realize a dream we had shared for a long time: rescue from oblivion the voices of people – leaders and ordinary people – that Kosovo’s changeable official histories had condemned to amnesia. We wanted to go beyond the narratives of victimization and the straightjacket of group thinking. We were interested in recovering the whole life experience of individuals.
Thanks to seed funds from The New School, a few private donors, the support of Kosova Women’s Network, but mostly the work of volunteers, we began to film interviews. Naturally, the first building block was made of interviews with Albanian women, whose part in war and peace times has been most often sidelined, if not forgotten. The interviews, filmed and transcribed in Albanian, English, and Serbian, are collected and presented in this website.
In 2015, the Oral History Initiative became an independent organization, and began to develop broader research themes.
Images, voices and written words
We are aware that the interviewers, by their very presence, influence the interviewee. Filming, which is a team effort, complicates the dynamic between the interviewee and a multiplicity of researchers. There may be no way of neutralizing the distortions caused by this complex context. We tried to minimize the problem by selecting interviewers who speak the same dialect as the interviewee and ask few, broad questions, giving priority to what the interviewee wants to say, rather than what she thinks the researcher wants to hear. Further questions are asked to clarify what was being said or expand on it.
As for the transcripts, they are written texts that reflect the pattern of speech, with the paragraphs and the punctuation that the transcriber proposes 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. Without the translations, the interview would be only understandable to a limited audience.