Women* Write the Balkans is a platform that has recently experienced its light of day. Editors Lea Horvat and Ana Sekulic have launched the platform as a special space for Balkan narratives and about the Balkans by authors who identify themselves as women, trans and/or non-binary persons. The platform is dedicated to exploring the multi-layered reality in the region and displays writing that combines experience, expertise and storytelling. The platform contains both short and long articles, from fragments and archive materials to micro-memoirs and personal and visual essays.
The importance of such platforms for expression and research – which come out of the context of mainstream journalism – means giving space to voices that often remain in the background. Writing about the Balkans also means writing about the multilayeredness of different historical events, and the people who live in these areas.
Below is an interview with Lea and Ana, who told us more about the platform itself.
Balkansmedia: Can you introduce yourselves first and then tell us more about the idea of creating the Women* Write the Balkans platform?
We are two historians and authors who live on two different continents and tackle different historical periods. We met on Twitter and the idea for the Women* Write the Balkans platform appeared spontaneously, out of dissatisfaction with the clichés about the Balkans that we find both in academic texts and in the media. Instead of focusing on the critique of the existing one, we decided to imagine what our narrative space concept might look like. For months we talked about design, logo, vision and authors we wanted to invite. Daydreaming is necessary and fantastic, but seeing the platform come to life and be visited since the beginning of this year is a special experience.
Balkansmedia: Creating a space that will be open and accessible to women, trans and non-binary persons, to express their views and opinions is often singled out or re-created. How limited is the space in mainstream media for such approach to content?
Women, and especially trans and non-binary people, appear in the media mostly as a topic of public debate, when talking about them and not with them, or within the framework of activist narratives on human rights. We believe that activism in its narrow sense is extremely important for a more inclusive society, but we see our role in creating a space where we do not have to deal with unwritten rules, the logic of the mainstream media and profitability.
Balkansmedia: What is the goal of the Women* Write the Balkans platform?
We want to create a space for layered narratives that we can't wait to read, that will touch the readers, make them think, and perhaps even encourage them to share their stories with us. We want to work with everyone who cares about the Balkans and about a well-told story.
Balkansmedia: As we could read in the description of your platform, it will offer the possibility of creating stories through storytelling, which will include short and long forms of works, as well as fragments of archival works, memoirs and visualization. How useful and important is it to use different forms to present this topic?
The forms that dominate the academic community leave little room for creativity because it is often more important to meet certain meticulously defined norms. We believe this to be a great pity and we believe in the potential of creative expression that adds value to the narratives we consider important. In this sense, we give our authors complete freedom to choose their formats and encourage them to try something that appeals to them even (or especially) if they have no experience with the medium and form that appeals to them.
Balkanmedia: Twitter and Instagram are two social networks that you have launched in parallel with the site. How important is it to be present on social networks today, and how will you use these social networks to present content to the audience?
Most of our visitors come to the site via Twitter, where we slowly gather an engaged community interested in our topics and approach. We also met and got to know each other on Twitter and we believe in the potential of this social network for socialization and solidarity. We do not like classical academic networking, but we have a need for the community that we are now looking for as well, but also co-shaping it.
Balkansmedia: Balkansmedia.org is a platform that writes about journalism, innovation, advice, resources and tools that can be useful to the media. Do you have any piece of advice or tip on how to give the media more space to this approach to topics, but also to people who will report from different perspectives?
A lot of texts dealing with the Balkans use ossified templates and stereotypes. We see that such a situation is partly caused by external pressures and editorial expectations, but we believe that this can and should be fought against. Responsibility, critical review of the Balkan narrative as well as narrative and poetic strength are particularly important to us, and these can be a key counterbalance for them.
And finally, they invite authors to test the limits of writing about the region and look forward to compelling stories from experienced writers, first-time authors, and anyone in between.