Don's Diary

June 4, 1999

Monday. I drive to Nottingham to pick up Vesna who is acting as interpreter for our research with refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The research involves conducting life story interviews, which are then represented in artistic form - poetry, painting, drawing and photography. The purpose is to counter myths and stereotypes, to explore displacement and exile, and to present experience in visual form. The work will be exhibited later in the year.

Today, we work with two people living in Nottingham who arrived from Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 and 1997. We take Esada through the transcript of her interview and discuss ways of representing it visually. Esada is keen to use her photographs, and we agree that it is important for people to work with their own materials.

Tuesday

I re-mark some dissertations, finalise a chapter for publication, email it to my co-author, Professor Rosemary Barbaret at the University of Seville, and prepare a presentation on prostitution and feminism for the following evening's Millennium Women event organised by postgraduates - Lee Jane Nixon, Sarah Louise Godfrey and Dee Lunn (Don's Diary, May 28) - at Staffordshire University.

Wednesday

Tutorials and seminars, followed by meetings, and then off to greet Sara Giddens, performing art lecturer from Nottingham Trent, with whom I am collaborating. Sara and I go through our presentation for Millennium Women. Sara has produced a live-art performance, mostly as a response to my ethnographic research with women working in prostitution.

Thursday

Meetings, tutorials and administration. Ring home at 4.30pm to make sure the children are OK. Steve has just arrived, and I tell him I will be home at 6.30pm. At 7pm, I call to tell him I am ready to come home. He responds with: "I had better turn the oven off then." Arrive home at 8.20pm.

Friday

I take the children to school and chat to some of the other mums - bliss! I prepare for an interview on Saturday, prepare for my visit to the Association of Afghan Residents in the UK, and transcribe an interview with a man from Afghanistan who arrived in England in 1992. An engineer in his home country, he has been unable to get a job here.

The most important thing for him now is that his children are safe and receiving an education.

Saturday

Steve drops our son Patrick off at his Saturday job and takes our other son James to the cinema.

Vesna and I interview an elderly man from Bosnia. The welcome is wonderful - tea, cake and Bosnian coffee. This gentle man of 69 years stayed in his home when tensions began to emerge in Bosnia, but his wife and daughter were sent to friends in Croatia for safety. Within a few weeks, his house was taken by Serbian soldiers and he was placed in a prison camp. He left the family home of 47 years with two carrier bags. After seven months, he was offered the chance to go to England or America. He could not join his wife in Croatia because he did not have the correct documents. On arrival in England, he began the process of getting his wife to join him, but she died before this was possible.

We go to a get-together held every Saturday at a community centre. Bosnian music, dancing, tea, cakes and wonderful potato pastries are waiting for us. Three more people come forward to be interviewed for our research. Arrive home to a delicious dinner, a bottle of wine and a detailed account of Rug Rats.

Maggie O'Neill, senior lecturer in sociology, Staffordshire University.

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