A Mosaic of Voices
Community Studies Center launches YouTube channel
September 29, 2009
Manuel Saralegui ’09 and Gabriela Uassouf ’10 worked closely with Mersida Camdzic (onscreen) to translate Bosnian women’s stories for “The Clothesline Project: Bosnia Herzegovina.” Camdzic decided to tell her story as well.
The Community Studies Center (CSC) has unveiled a collection of mini-documentaries and profiles on its new YouTube channel.
Ranging from five to 10 minutes long, the videos are produced by faculty and students who participated in the CSC’s mosaic programs. The content is drawn from archival material and oral-history interviews. According to Susan Rose ’77, director of the CSC, the channel gives students and faculty an opportunity to present results of their research to a wider, nonacademic audience.
Voices of the past
The mosaic program began as an experiment in multicultural education and an alternative to traditional study-abroad options, said Rose.
“A number of faculty came together to think about engaging students in local communities and negotiating the challenges of domestic diversity that often is more difficult to deal with than going abroad,” she added. “Initially it was thought to be a junior-year experience where you would be immersed in local communities.”
Previous mosaics include Steelton, Pa., in 1996 and 2001; Mexican Migration in 1998 and 2003; Patagonia Migration Project in 2001, 2003 and 2005; Montserrat in 2005; Venezuela in 2007 and 2008; and Black Liberation Movements in 2008, a comparative mosaic studying the South Africa anti-apartheid movement and the civil-rights movement in Mississippi.
One of the videos is a condensed version of “An Argentine Mosaic: Destino Patagonia,” a 71-minute bilingual documentary produced by Rose and Marcelo Borges, associate professor of history. It focuses on the immigration stories that led to the development of Comodoro Rivadavia and oil company towns in the Patagonia district of Argentina.
The Patagonia Migration Project also features bilingual interviews with a Spanish stowaway to Patagonia after the Spanish Civil War of 1836-39 and with a Patagonian who returned to Spain to fight against Gen. Francisco Franco.
The Black Liberation Mosaic produced several documentaries as well, including two pieces about apartheid-era South Africa and a Ken Burns-style video based on research on sharecropping in the Mississippi Delta.
“Students [in the mosaics] are actively involved in research design, interviewing and ethnographic research,” Rose said. “[They also] think about how they are going to meaningfully, ethically and effectively present the research to a larger community and give back to the communities with whom they’ve been collaborating.”
A local voice
One video, however, did not originate with a mosaic. Based on an interview with Bosnian immigrant Mersida Camdzic, owner of Mersida’s European Food Store in Carlisle, it holds a singular significance for many in the CSC. The video is part two of “The Clothesline Project: Bosnia Herzegovina,” which documents the genocide—and the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war—that erupted in the wake of former Yugoslavia’s breakup.
Part one features stories of women survivors in a witness-protection program who had testified against Marko Radić, the commander of the concentration camp near Mostar, Bosnia. It is based on interviews conducted in 2007 by Shannon Sullivan ’09, who had received a CSC research grant for her senior honors thesis on the topic.
When it came time to put the video together, she needed someone fluent enough in the Bosnian language to help her with translations and subtitles. Rose introduced Sullivan to Camdzic, whom Rose had met while guiding research projects for first-year and senior seminars that focused on recent immigrants to the Carlisle area.
Manuel Saralegui ’09 joined the editing team in February, and Gabriela Uassouf ’10 took over for Sullivan when she graduated. As the project took shape, the students grew closer to Camdzic, spending afternoons at her shop.
“We would work on this then go to Mersida’s and have lunch together while we showed her progress on the video,” Saralegui said. “She even helped us select the appropriate music.” The soundtrack features a children’s song about the Mostar River, which literally and symbolically divided the community.
This summer, Camdzic decided that she also wanted to share her experience and allowed Saralegui and Uassouf to interview her.
“It was a powerful afternoon,” Uassouf said. “It was difficult for her to tell the story, and she wouldn’t have talked if we hadn’t built that relationship.”
According to Rose, Camdzic found the experience liberating and was thrilled with the results. “There was a real sense that she wanted to share this with her friends and family here and in Bosnia,” Rose said. “[There was a] word we could never translate—it was some combination of pride and gratitude. She’s someone who wants to speak the truth.”
Rose added that the CSC makes careful choices about what is appropriate for public consumption. Some of the video footage may be available only as CSC archive material, while other interviews will be posted to YouTube once they are completed. “The most important thing is that it’s a dialogue,” she said. “Whatever story you’re telling, you have to be thoughtful about what you’re presenting to the larger public.”