Narrative report on the international summer online school
« The past that defines our future: the formation of national strategies for commemoration and oblivion»
The school took place as planned on July 13-31.The goals of the summer school were:
- to present the experience of different European countries and regions in the reconciliation of divided societies after the wars to the participants;
- to teach participants to use the gender analysis in the elaboration of the approaches to peacebuilding and conflict resolution;
- to discuss national strategies of war conflicts commemoration and the role of civil society in overcoming of post-war traumas.
25 participants attended the school; among them there were university professors and employees of public organizations, whose scientific interests and social activities are related to the problems of commemorating military conflicts and helping survivors of violence. The participants included representatives from Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The school was co-organized by the Complutense University of Madrid; the renowned experts in the field of commemoration from European universities: the Universidad Autónomade Madrid, the University of Leeds, the University of Berlin, the University of Coimbra, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and the Armenian Academy of Sciences were invited to deliver lectures. The composition of the group ensured a high level of motivation of the participants and their active involvement during the implementation of the school program. In their applications participants mentioned the following reasons for participating in the school:
- to expand the experience of international interaction with colleagues, professional exchange of views on school topics, and to look at the issues raised from the point of view of representatives of various national historiographies,
- to learn how to overcome post-war stresses and situations, how to get the approaches to peacebuilding and conflict resolution,
- to explore the experience of organizing and conducting international educational programs in a remote format,
- to master a new methodology that will help to carry out their own research; the inclusion of participants in the research network of the ICGS summer schools.
The school was held on the ZOOM PROFI platform using the ZOOM Webinars service, which made it possible to carry out consecutive and simultaneous translation, as well as organize the work of participants in groups in session rooms. The developed methodology of the school made it possible to bring it as close as possible to the format of our offline schools and to ensure communication and interaction of participants, despite the distances separating them. The school program (attached) included daily sessions from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm CET, with the exception of weekends and the last four days, when participants, working in small groups, wrote collective extended essays. The first seven days were lectures and were devoted, according to the program, to mini-courses of invited lecturers. The feedback questionnaires showed that the participants highly appreciated the courses of all the lecturers. The courses of Jean Diaz –Guijarro Hayes, Nikolai Vukov, Ingrid Sharp, Ulrike Auga were especially noted (the final feedback questionnaire is attached). Since the participants were specialists in the field of war commemoration and trauma research, they took an active part in discussions of the problems posed by the lecturers in frontal
discussions, worked in small groups, exchanging opinions and materials of their research in the chat. In order to enable the participants to get acquainted in more detail with each other's research interests, they were given the opportunity to make presentations on this topic, and within two days those for whom it was important to share the results of their research and projects with colleagues, presented them for the group and for those of the lecturers who were able to attend the school for additional days. This part of the school program was noted by the participants as one of the most interesting, as it allowed them to review the most relevant trends in research on commemoration issues and led to the establishment of contacts between the participants and generating ideas for joint projects.
The second part of the school program supposed the independent work of the participants. The process of writing collective essays in small groups was aimed to contribute to the collective reflection of the school problematic and elaboration of the common position of the participants from different countries of the region. The participants came together in five groups, each of which chose the topic of the essay in accordance with their research interests. As a result, essays were submitted on the following topics:
What do we remember, and what are we trying to forget at the level of national memory?»;
«Can society move into the future and modernize without rethinking and overcoming the post-war trauma?»;
«The problem of competition of historical narratives in the building of state identity: national and regional aspects »;
“What impact does trauma survival make on gender relations in the post-conflict societies?”,
“How does politics of memory affect the development of civil society, women's organizations, gender studies?”.
The result of their collective work was very impressive so, one of the participants, Prof. Irina Alferova from Bryansk state university proposed to develop those essays in articles and publish them in special issue of her university journal. Several participants used later this opportunity and their articles will be published in Autumn issue.
According to the tradition, the summer school program ended with a round table “Wars and pandemics: how do we survive and commemorate collective traumas?” which was attended by participants and lecturers of the summer school. The discussion allowed to make conclusions of the three-week work and outline the prospects for further research on commemoration and wars and conflicts. All except for the two participants successfully completed the school program and received final certificates, including two participants from Armenia.
Final feedback showed that all participants were satisfied with the programme, content, methods of teaching and organization of the summer school (final feedback is enclosed). The participants highly appreciated the school program, its methodology and organization. It was noted that the online format made the school's curriculum more accessible, as not all participants could be completely free from work to take part in the three-week training program, and the online program allowed for a combination of work and summer school activities. However, most of the participants indicated that they would prefer a mixed format, combining online and offline activities.
Among benefits of the participation in summer school participants mentioned:
- possibility to get acquainted with the current state of affairs in the field of memory and trauma research on the post-Soviet space and abroad;
- new contacts and new topics to think about;
- expansion of professional contacts;
- acquisition of new knowledge;
- enrichment of teaching, improving the skills of working in the video-conference mode;
- "pen test" in own research on gender issues and feedback from specialist;
- possibilities of participation in further joint projects.
So, we can conclude that the results of the summer school met its goals and the project was successful and gave a lot to participants. For organizers it was as well a new challenge and possibility to try themselves in the new format of education, to develop their professional skills and contacts. So we are extremely grateful to Gulbenkian Foundation for supporting our projects and for their input to the development of the network of the NGO activists and academicians developing.