July 08, 2015
Communications and Marketing
Two Saint Anselm College students are making the most of the summer through a hands-on research experience interviewing Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. International relations and Spanish major Kristine Adams '16 and politics major Scott MacNeil '16 traveled with Professor Erik Cleven to Sarajevo on June 30. They will be abroad for 10 days assisting the politics professor with a research project he began several years ago.
Cleven, an expert in ethnic violence and terrorism, asked Adams and MacNeil to assist him this summer because both had taken his political violence course last semester. Nearly 20 years after the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Cleven's research aims at studying the effect of interethnic dialogue in a small community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Field Research: Studying Divided Communities
Adams and MacNeil, alongside Cleven, are interviewing teachers, municipal officials, parents, and young people about their experience participating in interethnic dialogue activities in a community deeply divided after the war in the 1990s. The school in the town is divided with Croats and Bosniaks using the school in shifts and studying different curricula. These in-depth conversations will help Cleven, Adams, and MacNeil better understand life in the town and the effects of interethnic dialogue. In addition, later this year, 600 parents, 300 from a town in northern Herzegovina and 300 in a similar control town, will be surveyed about their interactions and relations with members of the other ethic group.
Cleven initially conducted interviews in the same location in 2012, before any attempts at interethnic dialogue had been made. As a result, the trio can now compare 2012 results to 2015 results, studying any changes in relationships across ethnic divisions.
"We surveyed the people in 2012 and this year the same people will be interviewed allowing us to measure whether there is a change in people's reported interethnic relations, and if so, what kind of people are more likely to form these connections," says Cleven.
"The whole point of the survey is that it goes beyond just asking about attitudes towards others and levels of trust, to ask questions about people's friendships and social networks," he says. "This is totally unique in this kind of work, since most surveys ONLY ask about the former."
So far Adams and MacNeil have interviewed young adults and are gathering additional information about life in the region. They have also travelled to Dubrovnik, Croatia, and toured Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital, Sarajevo.
"Talk about a ‘once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity," says Adams. "The best part is that [Professor Cleven] is setting up our own research design."
"We spoke to different individuals and heard many perspectives on what life is like here for young people. Despite differences in perspectives on the situation for their age group, most expressed that segregated education was the real cause of ethnic tension," says MacNeil.
Cleven hopes that his students will be able to publish an article or give a presentation on the research. He is also writing a journal article about the results.
In addition to his work in Bosnia, Cleven is traveling to Jordan this summer to run a training on interethnic dialogue. His research interests include ethnic conflict and violence and the relationship between civil society and the mobilization or constraint of violence as well as transnational terrorism and press attention. He is currently working on a book on the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya and has carried out research on communal violence and riots in Kosovo and India.