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K-State Today

August 19, 2020

History professor receives fellowship to research refugee experiences in Kosovo

Submitted by Office of the Vice President for Research

Mary Elizabeth Walters, assistant professor of history at Kansas State University, has received a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This fellowship will support Walters' research agenda, "Hospitality Is the Law of the Mountains: The 1999 Kosovo Refugee Crisis in Albania." This project builds on her award-winning dissertation.

In 1999, more than 530,000 Kosovar refugees crossed into Albania, fleeing Serbian ethnic cleansing. "Hospitality is the Law of the Mountains" focuses on actions of the U.S. military and Albanians in providing refugee assistance and how their efforts combined to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

The NEH summer stipend will support two months of research. Walters, who is fluent in Albanian, including the main Tosk and Gheg dialects, will collect oral histories in Kosovo with former refugees who fled into Albania. During her six weeks in Kosovo, she expects to gather between 20 and 30 oral histories.

Walters will also work in the archive of the municipality of Gjilan and the Fan S. Noli Gilan City Library to explore the experiences of Kosovars who fled into Macedonia, as well as Kosovar perceptions of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit during their time deployed as part of NATO's peacekeeping mission.

Walters will spend the final two weeks of the research period at the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a result of recently declassified documents, there is a new wealth of materials on the Kosovo war and refugee crisis of 1999. This research will build on work she has already done through Clinton Digital Library.

Walters' monograph will be the first historical account of the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

"We live in a world of unprecedented, mass global migration," Walters said. "It is all too easy for scholars and general audiences to lose face of the human reality of mass migration and to feel helpless to affect change."

Her research explores that human face and demonstrates how Albanian families and peasants affected mass change with the logistical support of the U.S. military.