NTU Associate Professor Blerina Kellezi is driven by a duty

NTU Associate Professor Blerina Kellezi is driven by a duty

 June 08, 2023

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Meet Nottingham Trent University (NTU) Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Blerina Kellezi. She is driven by a duty to help break the cycle, preventing human rights violations.

As part of the NTU series Researchers Revealed, Blerina discusses her research journey and explains how she uses her work.

Driven by a duty to positively impact the future

NTU Blerina Kellezi

Before starting her research career, Blerina spent five years working for several environmental and health charities and UN agencies on mental health projects. This included work in a refugee camp in Albania In 1999.

"The duality of responses to the same traumatic events I witnessed there, was one of the key inspirations for my research, as it made me want to understand more about how people cope with trauma and human rights violations," shares Blerina. 

"Today, I am driven by a duty – that I believe applies to all of us – to understand what leads to these violations in the first place, and to find ways that we can collectively address their impact and prevent them in the future."

Investigating vulnerabilities and resilience to trauma

NTU Blerina Kellezi

Blerina's research investigates how people collectively deal with, and are affected by, mass human rights violations. Examples of this work include investigating vulnerabilities and resilience to trauma in post-war Kosovo, the dictatorship in Albania, witch-hunting in Gambia, and immigration detention in the UK.

"I have conducted over a thousand interviews with individuals who have experienced these severe violations and trauma. Speaking to these individuals has helped me to understand the depth and complexity of human experiences. I witnessed the depth of harm we can do to each other, but I also saw the many ways we can work together to support each other," explains Blerina.

Working with survivors has inspired Blerina to take a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to understand their experiences and their strategies for coping, so that we can bring about real change. "My psychological work in this area is very much informed by history, politics, sociology, human rights, and even art and literature," she says. 

Using survivor's stories to improve our future

Blerina's research is investigating how we can collectively address the impact of human rights violations on the health, social, economic, political, civil and cultural lives of those affected.

"I am interested in how we can collectively build families, communities, nations, and a world that understands and prevents harm, inequalities and discrimination in the present and for future generations. I want us to build a fairer, healthier and happier society together," Blerina shares. 

"What fascinates me about my area of research is the amazing resilience of survivors, and their fight for justice. I am also captivated by the power of social connections – such as communities, families and other groups – even in extraordinary circumstances. This is especially visible when it comes to acting together to redress harms and bring about systemic changes to prevent or minimise abuse."

Blerina has been fortunate enough to work collaboratively with some wonderful colleagues and organisations to help survivors of human rights violations by creating widespread strategies to redress past harm, and prevent future harm. These collaborations have been essential to develop research ideas that inform practice and policy and make a real difference to people’s lives.

Interesting research collaborations 

Blerina has been working with the Institute for the Study of Crimes and Consequences of Communist Crimes in Albania where they have discussed what should happen with communist architecture and cultural artifacts.

"On the one hand, they help us understand the way the communist regime managed to create and maintain fear and control of the population, and on the other hand, they are reminders of violence and can trigger past traumas for the victims.  Through my work, I am able to provide recommendations to ensure that objects like these are given clear labelling to explain their role in the violence towards their victims," says Blerina. 

"Documenting harm is very important for survivors to achieve justice. In a recent project aimed at raising awareness about the Kosovo war and its outcomes, my research collaborators and I have developed a documentary with survivors to share their stories. I have always felt that survivors’ stories should become testimonies to be widely shared with others so that we can learn from our past and improve our future. We’re hoping to take this film to different film festivals in the next year or so."

Strategies that can bring about change

NTU Blerina Kellezi

Blerina's work has shifted the way she now sees the world, and it motivates her to continue searching for strategies that can bring about change.

"Sadly, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to understand the many forms that human rights violations take, and their impact. But I am really hopeful that the work I and many others are doing to document the causes and consequences of past harm can help us prevent harm in the future," Blerina concludes. 

Researchers revealed 

NTU researchers come from a variety of backgrounds, and they all have a powerful story to tell. In the Researchers Revealed series, NTU shares their stories. From the mothers, the dancers and the engineers, to the refugees, the survivors and the volunteers.

NTU women undertake important research 

NTU women researchers focus on pressing topics that make a difference in the world. 

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