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Belfast is not Bosnia: Handa Center Alum Publishes Reflections on Conflict Studies

War ruins in Bosnia
Feb 4 2018

Posted In:

In the Media, Teaching & Students

Alina Utrata (‘17) recently published an article in northern slant, titled “Belfast is not Bosnia”, reflecting on her studies of conflict in Bosnia and Ireland. Utrata was the first student to declare the Human Rights Minor at Stanford University. In addition to her academic studies, Alina was an active member of the Handa Center, including serving on the Student Advisory Board and interning as a trial monitor in Cambodia. She is currently a Marshall Scholar, pursuing a Master’s degree in conflict transformation and social justice at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Utrata stated, "The Handa Center was instrumental in preparing me for my studies in Northern Ireland. Through them, I was able to get exposure to the field through my internship in Phnom Penh, and the Human Rights Gateway course prepared me for the different disciplinary approaches that I am now engaging with in my new program."

Read Utrata's article in northern slant, a publication, "encouraging positive change in attitudes in Northern Ireland, politics, community and young people," below.

Alina Utrata in Ireland


Alina Utrata brings a personal perspective from studying conflict to an evening of recollections of peacemaking.

Outsiders have difficulty visualizing what Northern Ireland looks like.

I don’t mean they have trouble imagining the beautiful architecture of Queen’s University, where I study; or the stunning coast of Giant’s Causeway; or the bars where the Game of Thrones cast hang out. No; outsiders have difficulty visualizing what Northern Ireland looks like.

Let me explain. I’m an American. Most of my American friends go to school in London. They gasp (in a rather polite, English way) when I tell them about the recent paramilitary kneecappings in Belfast. “There are paramilitaries?” they ask in hushed tones, “Is that scary for you?” I can tell they’re visualizing a landscape more akin to Raqqa, Iraq than Victoria Square. On the other hand, when my American friends come to visit me, and we ramble through Botanic Gardens with our overpriced cappuccinos and artisanal sesame sausage rolls, they have difficulty visualizing conflict. “St George’s Market,” they insist, “is not a war zone.”

The fault lines of a divided society are visible in Northern Ireland – but only if you know how to look.

Continue to read the full article here.


Photo: War ruins; Adam Jones