I started Stories of Conflict and Love when I was working as a humanitarian practitioner in conflict and post-conflict areas.

The ‘conflict’ part of the title is, therefore, obvious; perhaps, the love is less so. Over years of work in conflict-affected areas, first as a humanitarian practitioner and later as a researcher, I have attempted to resist the pessimism — often cynicism — that can arise when one exposes herself to atrocities, inequality, or injustice every day.

And yet, as someone who believes in the power and texture of storytelling, calling this space “Stories of Conflict” felt incomplete because that would have missed the positive narratives I have also observed in conflict zones — and it would have also missed just how pervasive a theme love is, in conflict areas and beyond. Love is personal, in ways that our metrics about violence, development, or social change may not quite capture — in ways that may make us uncomfortable. This site is a personal space, too, and an attempt be honest about my own location within this work, and the reflections that this position can prompt.

For that reason, a strong narrative “I” permeates most of the stories. While I do not write directly about research participants or humanitarian work because I neither have their consent to do this nor can I protect their privacy, confidentiality, and safety, I do write about the moments-in-between and the personal dimensions of this line of work.  Stories of Conflict and Love does not fit squarely within the categories of an aid blog, a travel blog, or a journal. Ultimately, I write about what moves me in the world — and this ranges from photography and musings on narrative and memory to reflections on mass violence, field work notes, and thoughts on feminism.

While I am still part of the humanitarian sector and continue to research issues of violence and power inequality, I do not currently spend the majority of my time in conflict or post-conflict areas. However, I chose to keep the name of Stories of Conflict and Love for two reasons: While the large-scale physical violence that underpinned my work in conflict-affected areas may not be present in Boston, many of the sources of inequality and structural violence — and the related reflections on militarism, feminism, compassion, and social change — are still relevant here, often in ways we hesitate to acknowledge when we draw firm, artificial lines between “here” and “elsewhere.”

Relatedly, I have kept the name of the site to remind me, and hopefully the readers, of how textured the narratives that emerge from these spaces can be, and to reflect the fluctuations in the moments that deplete or replenish our faith in humanity.

Roxanne2About me

I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece and my nostalgia grows as I age away from my homeland. Nostalgia, after all — a Greek word, as I have to point out to you — is the pain of nostos, the long journey to return home. I spend much of my time thinking about the notions of home and away, of memory and forgetting, of loss and grief. These are not (just) intellectual pursuits; I have experienced each of these liminal, transitional states intimately, and I write about them, in a constant search for a more public lexicon for pain. I am a feminist, a fervent believer in the power of storytelling, and a Joan Didion fanatic — and I have yet to meet a panda bear I haven’t loved.

I am a researcher and humanitarian practitioner and I am interested in questions at the intersection of gender, violence, armed conflict, and victimhood. I am currently based at Feinstein International Center and managing the Humanitarian Evidence Program, an initiative to synthesize evidence-based research in the humanitarian sector and communicate the findings to decision-makers, with the ultimate goal of improving humanitarian policy and practice. Prior to this position, I have served as a researcher, advisor and consultant on issues related to gender and conflict for various UN agencies, international organizations, and community-based groups. This has involved working with ex-combatants, victims and survivors of violence, and fellow researchers and humanitarian practitioners in Egypt, Pakistan, Colombia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Uganda, Sudan, Guatemala, Mexico, and other areas.

My research interests are many and varied, and they date back to my undergraduate degree at Harvard University and my graduate studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Narratives and memory in the aftermath of violence, patterns of violence in mass atrocities, and gender and power analyses of the above are key themes permeating my work. At the core of my research is an attempt to understand the experience of victimhood in the context of armed conflict: how victims of conflict cope and seek to recover in the aftermath of violence, and how our victim response mechanisms, from reparations to memory initiatives, can take these experiences into account. Specifically, I am curious about the (gendered) politics of victimhood and the ways in which different groups of victims organize, tell their stories, and advocate for their rights. I am thinking about what it means to be a researcher and humanitarian practitioner who focuses on questions of violence and, therefore, how to ask these questions respectfully, ethically, and mindful of my responsibility to victims and survivors of violence. Dilemmas of ethical research, agency, voice, and storytelling underpin all these pursuits.