Opening Pandora’s jar of pain & grief

It’s 4 a.m. and I cannot sleep. How I wish this wasn’t a recurring theme in recent years, but, alas. I need to get some thoughts of my mind concerning my fieldwork, semester abroad, thesis work, uncertainties, in other words, life quandaries in general.

Past summer, after I visited the mass graveyard in Potočari (Srebrenica) and my birthplace Višegrad, I wrote a blog post about my experiences of those places of pain. Visiting them opened up a jar that has led to some unexpected results. I hoped that by being there I could invoke a much needed healing process for myself, and in many ways I did. But running over the last six months makes me realize that it had extraordinarily debilitating effects as well.

From September until January I spent time in Montréal for a semester abroad. This was supposed to be an all out positive learning experience whereby I could explore the North American educational system while soaking in the ‘multicultural’ tastes of the city. Unfortunately that’s not exactly how it went down. I did meet wonderful people, and the experience in its totality was an interesting learning school. But, at the same time, it was there that my unprocessed feelings kicked in and culminated into a deep state of haze. Before, I had experienced similar feelings of existential numbness, but never in such a prolonged manner and with such negative effects on my productive capacities relating to university work. It seemed that I was incapable of writing anything coherent that would pass the academic approval stamp.

Fast forward some months and here I am reflecting on the still lingering haze. I am reminded of Renato Rosaldo’s experience of losing his wife and how that informed his understanding of Ilongot Heandhunter’s rage. Less than a month later he wrote in his journal about the initial moment: “I felt like in a nightmare, the whole world around me expanding and contracting, visually and viscerally heaving” (171). Maybe his work resonates so deeply with me because I have a similar feeling relating to the effects of my fieldwork on me. Similarly, I share the idea that juxtaposing my experiences about uncertainty, violence, and pain can inform me about those of the participants’ I engaged with.

To do this, I first need to let my own experiences find a place of acceptance, which is much easier said than done. In order to let free the hope that was left inside Pandora’s jar I need to decenter my logocentrism to let my body feel and speak, as it obviously needs to deal with some shit, in order to better relate to the subtleties of everyday intimate embodied violence in Sarajevo. Because, when the body talks it often whispers, and whispers are only heard if you lean in close enough. Unless you can read lips of course…


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