Through Queer Archive initiative we have started working with LGBT*IQA persons and activists from BiH and the region as to document personal stories and memories related to war, gender, sexuality and security. We have started documenting stories of relationships, communality, solidarity and resistance to war and ethno-national politics and practices in war and post-war BiH and region. Those personal stories are excluded from the official narratives, completely invisible to the general public and LGBT*IQA community themselves, and as such they are dislocated. When we had started working on the Archive, we asked two questions: How did LGBT*IQA persons survive the war? How did LGBT*IQA persons resist against the war during wartime?
At the very start of the initiative, five persons have gone through in-depth, half-structured interview training. During the period of the following 10 months, in pairs or in a group of three, we have travelled across the region, recording interviews. We have made 26 half-structured interviews, with total material duration of 40 hours. Parallel to field work, we have published and shared public call for participation in Archive building through Okvir, Organisation Q and Network for Building Peace mailing lists and public communication channels and through persons already participating in the Archive building process. Within a period of one year, about 50 persons have participated and contributed to Archive building – through consultation, direct participation in interviews, locating relevant supporting material, and giving their technical and emotional support as well.
Documentary movie and video interviews
We recorded 16 video interviews about activist engagement of LGBT*IQA persons during ‘90s from BiH and the region, out of which 11 interviews were made part of the documentary movie. Initially, we planned to record 5 interviews, yet as we entered the process, quantity of the material increased. The movie documents testimonials of LGBT*IQA persons/activists who were active during 1990’s through direct work with victims of war, LGBT*IQA persons, women’s peace activism, participation in anti-militaist movement, work with refugees and deserters or other forms of feminist engagement.
LGBT*IQA persons from BiH have participated in making 10 audio interviews/personal stories. The stories shared are about war, army, security, relationships, gender and sexuality prior to and during the war in BiH. Each personal story is in audio format, transcribed and translated from BCS to English language, and is accompanied by a personal photograph the storyteller chose themselves.
Timeline of LGBT*IQA her/history or important events and persons in the region
Throughout the process of our work, each person who has contributed to the archive has also shared pieces of information on dates, events and persons relevant for the future growth of the Archive. Paralel to recording and collecting data and interviews, we have initiated building a timeline of the most important dates, events and persons for LGBT*IQA her/history.
Collaboration with Whose Knowledge? / mapping the knowledge of marginalized communities
Whose Knowledge? is a global campaign that aims to correct the skewed representations of knowledge on Wikimedia projects as well as the wider internet. As there is little information online on the topics we aim to record and collect and as most of the persons who have contributed to the Archive have no online entries on Wikipedia – with support of WK? we have started the process of knowledge mapping, licensing, references and articles, as well as Wikipedia entries. We have also started the conversation with Internet Archive regarding data and content management onto Internet Archive repository.
As this is the very first step of Queer Archive building, next steps are:
-publishing individual video interviews and writing abstracts for each interview;
-further collecting of data, stories, photos and material for the Archive and build-up of timeline;
-collaboration with Whose Knowledge? And Internet Archive platform;
-redesign of website, integration of web-publishing platform (Omeka), data-building and collaboration tools, integration of visualisation data management platforms
WHY WAR, GENDER, SEXUALITY AND SECURITY?
War, gender, sexuality and security make an intersecting point for first and second generation of war survivors. We decided to start Queer Archive right from this point of time/space/body intersection because we wanted to record the attempts and efforts of peace, anti-war, feminist and LGBT*IQA persons and activists as resistance to war, divisions and ethno-nationalist practices. Dominant public discourses related to war in BiH are highly gendered by stereotypes and present specifically normed historical accounts regarding gender and ethnic identities in favor of the ruling ethno-national parties. Gendered bodies and representation of women, men and gender-queer persons are highly instrumentalized and used for nation building and preservation.
When we started our work as Association Okvir, we gradually realized that war and gender based violence and post trauma significantly influenced the ability of previous attempts in BiH and ours to actually bring significant social change in BiH. This dimension could not be ignored but has been integrated into our work within the past three years. Through LGBT*IQA peer to peer counseling and mutual provision of psychological support we are witnessing that the amount of war and post war trauma is highly present in general population of survivors. This is directly reflected through high level of violence in BiH, GBV, internalized LGBT*IQA-phobia, violence in LGBT*IQA relationships, domestic abuse and living in a closet. War experience has imposed strong parameters of violence towards oneself and others, boundaries today have been blurred and violence has been relativized as the result. There are no adequate and professional government and non/government mechanisms to address the violence within and towards LGBT*IQA persons/communities and that contributes to further marginalization and stigmatization of LGBT*IQA persons and their low quality of life. Along with poverty, precarious work and non existence of basic (economic, social) conditions for life for all citizens of BiH, including LGBT*IQA persons, the economic, psychological and social violence is being perpetuated up to date.