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Ending Educational Displacement: Storytelling as a Method for Transformative Learning, Healing, Recognition, Inclusion and Empowerment

Sabic-El-Rayess, Amra

There is limited research on the effects of storytelling on the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) community’s sense of self, particularly on those individuals who have been displaced from their homeland due to violence and persecution. In the field of education, such an analysis is particularly cogent considering that the physical displacement and ethnic segregation the Bosniak community experienced in the 1990s was built on multigenerational displacement from the educational system in the former Yugoslavia. Educational displacement translates into being invisible and unacknowledged in the educational curricula, leaving a permanent imprint on those affected. In the case of Bosniaks, their lived experiences and representations were transposed from mainstream curriculum in schools in the former Yugoslavia, engendering a feeling of a lesser contribution, meaning, and value to society relative to non-Bosniaks. This marginalization still reverberates through Bosniak collective thinking and culture, at home and abroad.

This chapter explores the role of storytelling in the process of healing, recognition, inclusion, and empowerment of Bosniaks deracinated by the Bosnian Genocide. Storytelling is a necessary step to heal and gain a sense of belonging for those in diaspora and in the homeland. I investigate the role of The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival in initiating a cross-national conversation within the virtual and physical Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the book’s release, I received a significant amount of public feedback and reactions from the Bosniak community about the impact of my autobiographical account as a genocide survivor. Through content analysis, I detect patterns in this engagement relating to notions of recognition, identity, empowerment, healing, inclusion, and belonging using theories of transformative learning, incidental learning, educational displacement, and recognition. I demonstrate the power of storytelling that has fueled societal acknowledgment within diaspora communities and broader recognition of the Bosnian Genocide.

The following section details the various displacements of Bosniaks in the years leading up to the 1992–1995 conflict with a particular focus on Educational Displacement. The sections thereafter examine the public social media engagement and posts I have received as a measure of engagement from Bosniak diaspora members and those living in Bosnia proper relative to the impact of The Cat I Never Named. I show the effect the book has had on Bosniaks’ sense of self through public social media engagement. I also address the relevance of autobiographical accounts, examine the effectiveness of storytelling, and reflect on my positionality, something the chapters in this volume by Dino Kadich and by Mišo Kapetanović also problematize for scholarship more broadly. The chapter demonstrates how empowerment can happen at the intersection of storytelling, public social media engagement, and education.

Keywords: Educational Displacement, Storytelling, Transformative Learning, Healing, Recognition, Inclusion, Empowerment, Bosnian Genocide, The Cat I Never Named, Bosniaks, Muslims, Identity, Adult Learning, Social Media, Truth-telling, Trauma, Survivor, Belonging, Connectedness, Resilience, Representation, Diverse Voices

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Also Published In

Bosnian Studies: Perspectives from an Emerging Field
University of Missouri Press

More About This Work

Academic Units
Education Policy and Social Analysis
Published Here
April 10, 2023