Oxford University professor James Pettifer spoke about his experience covering the Balkan War for The London Times during a lecture on his book “The Kosovo Liberation Army: Underground War to Balkan Insurgency, 1948-2001” Monday.
The event, titled “Book Talk: Kosovo — Towards Contemporary History,” was sponsored by the School of Foreign Service’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies.
In his speech, Pettifer discussed the challenging aspect of writing contemporary history.
“The issue of the KLA and its heritage is not going to go away … not because of what happened in 1999 but also because of what [has] happened since — or what hasn’t happened since.”
Pettifer explained that Kosovo lacks a strong enough standing military force to prevent crises, which contributed to the severity of the war in the late 1990s.
As a foreigner in the region, Pettifer said he had a unique perspective during the years of conflict.
“I remember being told by a [Serbian] hunting club in Kosovo, ‘We’re not hunting bear or fox anymore; we’re going to hunt Albanians now,’” Pettifer said.
While in Kosovo, Pettifer combined his academic interests with reporting.
“There is nothing wrong with bearing witness to historical events,” he said.
Students said the combination of Pettifer’s experience in Kosovo and his career as a contemporary historian made the lecture interesting.
“I’m doing a research project on youth initiatives in Kosovo, so for me it was really cool to talk about contemporary issues even though he is also historian,” Jaime Cordes, a graduate student in CERES, said.
According to Pettifer, the conflict in Kosovo is as relevant today as it was during the ’90s.
“I hope people will read the book … as living history because the issue is in the history,” he said. “I hope my book will help the understanding of [the issues], and I hope it won’t be put in a ghetto of obscure Balkan studies.”