Campus News

Bowdoin Professor Earns Grant for Book on First Ethnic Cleansing in Former Yugoslavia

Story posted April 15, 1999

April 16, 1999, BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Pamela Ballinger a grant to travel this summer to Italy and Croatia to study the expulsion of ethnic Italians from Yugoslavia after World War II.

The breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 stimulated claims from ethnic Italians living near what had been the Italian/Yugoslavian border that they had been victims of the first ethnic cleansing of the area, fifty years before.

Though the exodus was not as sudden as that of the Albanians in Kosovo, about 200,000 ethnic Italians fled socialist Yugoslavia in the decade following World War II. Violence, deportations, religious persecution and physical and psychological terrorizing made many ethnic Italians believe they had no choice but to leave their homes on the Istrian Peninsula (now divided between Croatia and Slovenia).

Ballinger's grant will enable her to travel to Italy and Croatia and to study the methods of intimidation used by the Titoist regime in Yugoslavia and the results of this upheaval. She will also compare the situation in Istria with that of other border regions such as Kosovo. Since the eruption of violence in the Balkans, Ballinger said, the tendency has been to wonder how could this happen when these groups lived peacefully together for so long or to assume this was inevitable because these groups have been fighting for hundreds of years. Ballinger believes that the reality is much more complex and that study of the Istrian Exodus will point to events in recent history that eventually caused Yugoslavia to fall apart the way it has.

This work will build on Ballinger's dissertation, which she also hopes to publish as a book. It examined the memories of both ethnic Italians who fled and those who remained in Yugoslavia and how those memories helped form their present cultural identity.

Ballinger earned her bachelor's degree at Stanford, an M. Phil. at Cambridge University in England and a master's and a doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University.

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