Ivana Maček, Associate Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Shame, Guilt, and Restitution: How Children in Sweden Understand the War in Bosnia and Their Parents’ Experiences

This presentation is based on my ongoing project (RJ) on transmission of experiences of war between parents and children in Sweden, where one or both parents came to Sweden because of the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina in the 1990s, while children were born in Sweden and thus have no direct experiences of war. In the project I have interviewed extensively both parents and children, but here I shall focus on children’s ideas about the war and what they know about their parents’ experiences.

Earlier research – mostly about the Holocaust – shows that parents who had experienced some sort of massive political violence have a tendency to either completely avoid the subject, or the opposite, to constantly refer to it through memories, ceremonies, and by naming babies after killed family members. The research claims also different effects of parents’ experiences on children: either as effecting negatively children’s psychic health, or as making the children psychologically stronger. The analysis I will present is a preliminary attempt to point to some similarities and differences in the aftermath of a war that was very different from the Holocaust. In the long run, the aim is to see which phenomena are general, and which are more context bound.

Find out more about the Migration cluster at the Department of Social Anthropology.

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