Max Bergholz - "Violence As A Generative Force" - Victor A. Friedman

Friday, February 17, 2017 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Max Bergholz discusses Violence As A Generative Force: Identity, Nationalism, and Memory in a Balkan Community. He will be joined in conversation by Victor A. Friedman.

Co-sponsored by CEERES

At the Co-op


About the book: During two terrifying days and nights in early September 1941, the lives of nearly two thousand men, women, and children were taken savagely by their neighbors in Kulen Vakuf, a small rural community straddling today's border between northwest Bosnia and Croatia. This frenzy―in which victims were butchered with farm tools, drowned in rivers, and thrown into deep vertical caves―was the culmination of a chain of local massacres that began earlier in the summer. In Violence as a Generative Force, Max Bergholz tells the story of the sudden and perplexing descent of this once peaceful multiethnic community into extreme violence. This deeply researched microhistory provides provocative insights to questions of global significance: What causes intercommunal violence? How does such violence between neighbors affect their identities and relations?

Contrary to a widely held view that sees nationalism leading to violence, Bergholz reveals how the upheavals wrought by local killing actually created dramatically new perceptions of ethnicity―of oneself, supposed "brothers," and those perceived as "others." As a consequence, the violence forged new communities, new forms and configurations of power, and new practices of nationalism. The history of this community was marked by an unexpected explosion of locally executed violence by the few, which functioned as a generative force in transforming the identities, relations, and lives of the many. The story of this largely unknown Balkan community in 1941 provides a powerful means through which to rethink fundamental assumptions about the interrelationships among ethnicity, nationalism, and violence, both during World War II and more broadly throughout the world.

About the author: Max Bergholz is Associate Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in the Balkans since 2003 on the dynamics of intercommunal violence, nationalism, and memory. His research has won support from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, and his articles have been published in journals such as American Historical Review. Violence as a Generative Force is his first book.

About the moderator: Victor A. Friedman is Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities. He has published extensively on former Yugoslavia, especially concerning issues related to language, as well as on the Balkans in general. During the Yugoslav Wars of Succession, he worked for the United Nations as a Senior Policy and Political Analyst responsible for the Republic of Macedonia, and he also consulted for the Council on Foreign Relations, International Crisis Group, etc.

About the co-sponsor: The University of Chicago has been providing instruction in disciplines of the CEERES region continuously since 1903, when courses in Russian language and area studies were begun. The center now known as CEERES has been in existence since 1965, and it continues to coordinate instruction and facilitate research about Russia/Eurasia and Eastern/Central Europe, including the Baltic States, Balkans, Caucasus, and Central Asia. In addition to its robust language offerings, CEERES supports curricula which are particularly strong at present in Russian/Soviet history; Slavic, Balkan, and Baltic linguistics; nationalities studies of the former USSR; Slavic literatures (Russian, Polish, Czech); Russian and East European cultural anthropology; comparative literature; archaeology of the Caucasus; Russian and East European film and art history, and business administration. CEERES faculty have expertise also in political science, international relations, economics, sociology, and Central and East European, Byzantine, and Ottoman history.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637