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The University of Southampton
The Centre for Transnational StudiesResearch projects

Research project: Languages at War: Policies and Practices of Language Contacts in Conflict

Currently Active: 

Language encounters were and are an everyday part of the multinational peacekeeping deployment in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Peacekeepers were required to interact with colleagues who spoke different languages, conduct operations in a society whose languages were unfamiliar to most personnel involved and contend with local linguistic politics in a context where language differences had been constructed as markers of ethnic belonging.

We aim to investigate the policies and practice of language encounters in the Bosnian peacekeeping operation between 1995 (the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina) and 2000. Our sources will include published memoirs, the civilian and military press, and interviews with individuals who were involved in the peacekeeping effort - in particular, interpreters, translators, linguists and people who worked with them, but also non-linguist members of the peacekeeping forces who had to use foreign languages themselves in the course of their duties. We also hope to collect oral histories to be deposited in the sound archive of the Imperial War Museum (one of our project partners) to add to the historical record on contemporary conflict.

This case study belongs to a wider project on language encounters in peacekeeping (a parallel study at the University of Reading is concerned with the Allied occupation of western Europe between 1945 and 1948). We envisage that the research will result in several articles and an edited volume, and we are planning annual workshops to share our findings with interested parties. The first workshop will take place in May 2009 at the Imperial War Museum. A public colloquium is also planned for the end of the project in 2011.

For further information visit the project website.

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