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Post-Conflict Mind Check

Team

Liliana Zambrano
Jenny Lamphere
Jon Jonoski

Commissioner:

Description

The Ghost of Tito

Yugoslavia’s rich and complex history allows for many different perspectives. Since our last post we got the chance to explore these perspectives a bit more extensively. We reached out to several people connected to the region, who all had varying opinions about our project, and the problems Yugoslavia’s successor states face. Some even claimed that our project is utterly misguided and unnecessary. They argued that westerners should not decide how Yugoslavians must think about peace and justice, and that Yugoslavians do not need to talk about their culture and history. They need jobs.

These are, to some extent, valid concerns. Many of the stereotypes we discussed in our previous post are indeed very much shaped by the way western media and politicians talk about Yugoslavia. For example, in the 1990’s, George Kennan, a former American ambassador to Yugoslavia, was asked by the American government to write a report on the conflict in Yugoslavia. In his report he argued that the ‘wars were motivated by aggressive nationalism that drew on deeper traits of character, inherited presumably from a very distant past’. It’s not just Yugoslavia that is often described like this in western society.  Similar claims were made about Iraq and Africa to justify respectively the Gulf Wars and colonialism. Creative Court is an organization that is very well aware of this, and in their projects they are often critical of these western attitudes. In our project we try to subvert stereotypes about Yugoslavia and focus too on the many great sides of Yugoslavian culture and history.  By the way, the ‘west’ should not be seen as a singular place in which everyone shares the same (stereotypical) norms and values, in the same way that Yugoslavia should not be seen in such a way.

Eurocentrism

Above anything else though we absolutely do not want to decide how Yugoslavians should think about their own history. We just want to open up a space that allows for discussion and (critical) reflection.  We have spoken to some who don’t need such a thing at all, and that’s fine. We do not want to force anything on anyone. It’s just wrong to state that nobody has a need for our project. We have come across many who do. Certainly for most people, jobs and economic security are far more important issues, but that does not mean that everything else is irrelevant.

In any case, as written earlier, we came across many different viewpoints regarding the direction of our project.  Yet every single person we spoke agreed that humor is the one binding factor in the former Yugoslavia. Everyone knows and loves the jokes about Mujo & Haso, the lazy Montenegrins, and the nationalistic Macedonians. In fact, In Yugoslavia’s successor states every situation can be turned into a joke. That became especially clear during the wars, when many often used humor to cope with the horrific circumstances.  An example:

Cigarettes are in very short supply and Mujo had put his last one behind his ear

Mujo and Suljo are running over the Drvenija bridge when a sniper opens up on them. Mujo takes a hit which shears off his ear. He stops frantically in the middle of the bridge looking at the ground. Suljo yells, “Get under cover, idiot! You’ve got two ears!”

Mujo: “Fuck the ear, I am looking for the cigarette!”

Haso

As our research had already shown the importance of jokes, we decided that we needed to incorporate humor in our project. That is why we can now present the first version of The Ghost of Tito. The Ghost of Tito is a simple game, inspired by Cards Against Humanity and Hints. There are three decks of cards. The grey cards consist of fill-in-the-blank statements, while the blue cards consist of words/sentences to fill the blanks with. At all time the players have five blue cards in their hands. Each turn a grey card is drawn, and the players have to decide which of their blue cards would fit the blank space in the funniest way. Whoever has created the funniest card combination ‘wins’ the black card. After everyone has drawn a grey card, the entire group participates in a bonus round. One person draws a special (yellow) bonus card, without revealing the word on it. He/She has to get the other players to guess the word either by drawing it out, or through verbal hints

The references in The Ghost of Tito are mostly based on Yugoslavian culture and history.  We have designed the game to be reflective and slightly provocative. It has references to some rather nasty people (but also to heroes such as Djordje Balasevic, Nikola Tesla and Mesa Selimovic), as well as references to each ethnicity. We believe that the game will be fun to play, but we also believe it will be reflective. After all, especially if it’s played between many people of different ethnicities, the game will force you to think, in a playful way, about your own preconceptions, and why certain card combinations are (not) funny. In the next weeks we aim to test our game to see whether our assumptions are true, and what adjustments we can make to it.

TitoGhost1

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