Ethnic Cleansing: the Term, the Practice (Works in Progress Meeting)

4:30 pm on Wednesday, January 24, 2018
6:00 pm on Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Pardee School of Global Studies, 121 Bay State Road (1st floor)

Join us for a Works in Progress talk by Vlado Petrović, Senior Researcher at BU's Center for the Study of Europe.

Abstract: The presentation aims to contribute to the debate over the use of term “ethnic cleansing”. Contrary to entrenched beliefs, this expression does not owe its existence to the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia.  Although crucial for the revival, dissemination and popularization of the term, this conflict overshadowed the rich prehistory of this term. Given that that the word ‘cleansing’ was in circulation from antiquity to modernity as a euphemism for political violence it would be prudent to explore when, how and why this term was ethnicized. By contrasting these obscured origins to its notorious revival in 1990s, the presentation considers the current debate over this problematic term and its contemporary manifestations. Its indiscriminate application triggered increasing criticism, including even the calls for abolishment of the phrase from contemporary academic discourse. However, abolishing the term proves to be as difficult as extinguishing violent practices it describes.

Vladimir Petrović is also a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Contemporary History in Belgrade, as well as Visiting Professor at History and Legal Department of Central European University. His latest book, The Emergence of Historical Forensic Expertise: Clio takes the Stand (Routledge, 2017) examines the role of historians and social scientists as expert witnesses in some of the most dramatic legal encounters of the 20th century. Petrovic was himself working in this intersection between history and law, both in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and in the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office. He published extensively on ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and attempts to undo its legacy, as well as on the history of nonalignment during the Cold War.