To be completely honest, Serbia was not a country I thought about much before I found out I would be working with Women In Black in Belgrade this summer. The Balkans have always daunted me as an area of study. I was only a kid during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 90s, and the recent history of the region is so complex, so entangled, and so ever evolving that I have found it difficult to overcome my intimidation. Since learning that I would be working with Women In Black, I cleaned out the shelf on Serbia in the Houston Public Library (hopefully, I haven’t made any Houstonian enemies who were also trying to research Serbia) and have been trying (pretty unsuccessfully) to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Even though I’m trying as best as I can to prepare and educate myself for my time in Serbia, I know deep down that I will truly learn only from my experiences “on the ground” in the country.
I am beyond excited that my time with Women In Black will serve as my introduction to the region and that I will have the opportunity to explore Serbia’s recent history through the lens of a feminist activist organization. WIB has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and received the first Millennium Peace Prize from Unifem. With the motto, “always disobedient to patriarchy, war, nationalism, and militarism”, Women In Black is a group whose value system closely aligns with mine although I have not yet really figured out how to be “disobedient” in a manner that is both effective and fits with my sense of self. I’m sure WIB will teach me a thing or two. After having taken a Feminist Theory course this past semester in which I often struggled with visualizing how the theories we studied are relevant to women outside of academia, I am particularly excited to see how WIB has managed to strike what appears to be a perfect balance between a scholarly interest in feminism and effective activism.
Digging through the WIB website (watch this movie for a good overview of WIB’s work) and learning more about the Otpor student resistance movement (I highly recommend the movie Bringing Down a Dictator), I am beginning to understand the critical role that resistance groups have played in Serbia recently. It seems like talk of nationalism dominates most dialogues and analysis on Serbia, but groups such as WIB and Otpor represent the critical voice of individuals who refuse to stand for the status quo and are willing to fight (non-violently, of course) for what they believe their country and every human being deserves.
I hope that my journey will be as much yours as it is mine. I plan to share everything I observe and learn on this blog, so hopefully, you’ll feel like you are there with me. Please feel free to share your questions and thoughts in the comments section for any blog I post. My next blog will be from Serbia!
Posted By Donna Harati
Posted May 27th, 2009