Synopses & Reviews
Julie Mertus provides one of the first comprehensive looks at the explosive situation in Kosovo, where years of simmering tensions between Serbs and Albanians erupted in armed conflict in 1998. In a profound and detailed study of national identity and ethnic conflict, Mertus demonstrates how myths and truths can start a war. She shows how our identity as individuals and as members of groups is defined through the telling and remembering of stories. Real or imagined, these stories shape our understanding of ourselves as heroes, martyrs, conquerors, or victims. Once we see ourselves as victims, Mertus claims, we feel morally justified to become perpetrators.
Based on a series of interviews conducted in Kosovo, Serbia proper, and Macedonia, this book is one of the first extended treatments of the years leading to war in Kosovo. Mertus examines the formation of Serbian national identity, and closely scrutinizes the hostilities of the region. She shows how myth and experience inform the political ideologies of Kosovo, and explores how these competing beliefs are created and perpetuated. This sobering overview of the region provides a window into a complex struggle whose repercussions reach far into the international community.
"Julie Mertus has written the most informed, sophisticated, and convincing account of the struggle over the future of Kosovo. Anyone who wants to understand the ongoing Kosovo ordeal, or for that matter the whole class of ethnic conflicts, cannot do better than to read and study this fine book."and#151;Richard Falk, Princeton University
"An important and original contribution to the literature about the break up of the former Yugoslavia. Julie Mertus reveals the competing narratives, the storytelling by which ethnic Serbs and Kosovo Albanians define themselves and their relationship to one another."and#151;Eric Stover, Director, Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley
"Julie Mertus leads us on a fascinating journey through history, myths, identities, and ideologies deep into the thickets of ethnicity and politics that have led to the bloody conflict between Albanians and Serbs. Yet the author leaves us not with despair over the fatality of ethnic conflict, but rather with an understanding of possible ways to resolve what seems unresolvable. This is the clearest and most affecting account of the Kosovo war."and#151;Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Chicago
About the Author
Julie A. Mertus is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at American University. She is the coeditor of The Suitcase: Refugees' Voices from Bosnia and Croatia (California, 1997), coauthor of Open Wounds: Human Rights Abuses in Kosovo (1994), and the author of Local Action/Global Change (1999). Mertus's articles on the Kosovo crisis have appeared in major newspapers.
Table of Contents
Preface: Understanding Kosovo Through "Truths"
1. The 1981 Student Demonstrations
2. "Impaled with a Bottle": The Martinovic Case, 1985
3. "A Shot Against Yugoslavia: The "Paracin Massacre," 1987
4. The Poisoning of Albanian School Children, 1990
5. Step One for NGOs: The Root Cause of Conflict
Postscript, 1997: A Wall of Silence
Postscript, 1998: Kosovo in Conflict