Sunday, January 01, 2006

Kosovo fieldwork: risk assessment; harm

Kosova/Kosovo fieldwork notes extracts

In this post, I relate an encounter I had in Kukri/Phoenix bar, which, in terms of my risk assessment for work in Kosovo, was the straw that broke the camel's back, or, perhaps more appropriately, the final nail in the coffin.

At 5.45am on the 31st of July 2005 I pointed out that,
"D'y'wanna come back in a box?" is one of many questions I'd hoped I wouldn't hear in my four long weeks here; yet, it was one I was asked more than once last night (and one I have been asked, in more or less reassuring terms, more than once during the last month).

An American teaching English in Krakow in Poland - and soon in Kyrgyzstan - staying at the same guest house as I am) and I were in the Phoenix when, towards the end of the night, we started talking to some British and French Kosovan police [Kosovo police] officers. They first ascertained that the English teacher was "just travelling", then wanted to know what I was doing here.

I explained that I was an archaeologist, then, after the characteristic pause, explained that I was researching conflicts over heritage, at which point I was asked, "d'y'wanna come back in a box!?" Not less than a little taken aback by this [question], I admitted that, "it wasn't exactly what I had planned".
Once I'd bemoaned that I'd given myself a hangover, at 12pm on the 31st of July 2005, I continued that,
no, it wasn't exactly what I had planned! He confirmed, "really, d'y'wanna come back in a box?", to which I responded, "not desperately, no", whereupon he concluded, "well, there you go then" and the English teacher reiterated, "you've got your answer right there".

"What do you want to do?", the Kosovan police officer asked. "I want to look at conflicts over heritage and archaeologists' responsiblities and duties in them", I restated, then explained that, "in Iraq, archaeologists sided with the Coalition..."
I corrected myself (though I still oversimplified), when I explained that,
"there are two groups of archaeologists - there are ones that supported the Coalition in the invasion of Iraq and there are ones that refused to work [on the Ilisu Dam Project] in Kurdistani Turkey because it would've involved massive human rights violations - and I have to say I sympathise with the ones who refused to work".
I have begun to investigate this further and have begun to question whether, because we do not have a neutral, original position, those who refused to act would also, effectively, be colluding in causing harm.

Then, I think, the pivotal point would be which action or actions would cause minimal harm, that is to say, which would respect the most fundamental human rights and contravene the least fundamental ones.

Participants have been afforded anonymity (unless they were acting in an official capacity and unless they waived the right to anonymity explicitly). Formatting has been changed to make it easy to read in a blog.

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