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Professor Jovan Byford

Profile summary

Research interests

My main research interests lie in the interdisciplinary study of social and psychological aspects of shared beliefs and social remembering, especially in relation to conspiracy theories, antisemitism and Holocaust remembrance. I am also interested more generally in the relationship between psychology and history.

At present, the main focus of my research is the visual rhetoric of atrocity. I have recently completed a book on the role which atrocity photographs played, and continue to play, in forging the public memory of the Second World War in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Focusing on visual representations of one of the most controversial episodes of that war - genocidal violence perpetrated against Serbs, Jews and Roma in the Independent State of Croatia between 1941-1945 - the book examines the history of the relevant atrocity images, scrutinizes the institutional dynamic behind their collection and preservation, and explores their subsequent dissemination through books, exhibitions, media reports, films, etc. The book pays particular attention to the politics of atrocity images and the continuities and discontinuities in the ways in which they shapted public perception of the history of the genocide in the Independent State of Croatia over the years. Picturing Genocide in the Independent State of Croatia was published by Bloomsbury Academic in July 2020.

Previously I worked on a number of projects on conspiracy theories, antisemitism and different aspects of Holocaust memorialisation.

Conspiracy theories: My first book Conspiracy Theories: Serbia vs. the New World Order, published in Serbian in 2006, was based on my PhD thesis which I completed at Loughborough University in 2002. By examining the proliferation of conspiracy theories in Serbian society in the 1990s, this book offered a unique look at a hitherto neglected aspect of Serbian culture, and remains an authoritative account of the rise of conspiracy culture and antisemitism under Milosevic. In 2011 I completed a second monograph on conspiracy theories, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011. Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction moves beyond the Serbian context and offers an interdisciplinary account of conspiracy theories as a global phenomenon, exploring their political, historical and psychological dimensions. The paperback edition of this book was published in the spring of 2015.

Antisemitism: In 2003-2005, I worked on a project on antisemitism in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The project consisted of a case study of the rehabilitation, since the late 1980s, of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic (1880-1956), a controversial Serbian Orthodox Christian theologian, who, in spite of his virulently antisemitic views, has come to be regarded within the Serbian Orthodox Christian culture as the most important religious figure since medieval times. By exploring the representations of Bishop Velimirovic in the media and in commemorative discourse, I examined the complementary dynamics of repression and denial of controversy which are constitutive of Velimirovic's continuing popularity. This project yielded a number of journal articles, and the book Denial and Repression of Antisemitism: Post-Communist Remembrance of the Serbian Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic published in 2008 by Central European University Press (select the link to read the book for free).

Holocaust remembrance in Serbia: In 2007 I received funds from the British Academy (under the Small Grants Scheme) for the project entitled 'History and politics of Holocaust remembrance: Semlin Judenlager in Serbian public memory (1945 to the present)'. This research explored the history of Holocaust remembrance in Serbian society, focusing on the memory of a specific site of Jewish suffering – the Semlin Judenlager. Semlin was the concentration camp in Belgrade where approximately 7,000 Jewish women, children and the elderly were murdered between March and May 1942. The monograph Staro Sajmište: A Site Remembered, Forgotten, Contested which examines the post-war memorialisation to the camp, was published in Serbian in December 2011. For more information on this research and the history of the Semlin Judenlager please visit the Semlin Judenlager project website.

Holocaust survivor testimony: In 2010 I embarked on a project on testimonies of the survivors of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia. I was interested in the production, collection, dissemination and reception of testimonies collected both under communism and after 1989, during the turbulent times of post-communist transition and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Through the analysis of Holocaust survivor testimonies produced in specific cultural and political contexts, I explored broader issues concerning the social and historical contingency of Holocaust testimony and the complex relationship between – and mutual interdependence of – individual, collected, and collective memory. I began work on this project in early 2011, thanks to the Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellowship which enabled me to spend three months as a fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies in Washington, DC.

Psychology and History:  Together with Cristian Tileagă from Loughborough University, I co-edited the book Psychology and History: Interdisciplinary Explorations (published in 2014) which includes contributions from psychologists and historians interested in pursuing interdisciplinary dialogue. We later also co-edited a Special Section of Qualitative Psychology on the use of archives in qualitative psychology (published in 2016). This work builds on our mutual interest in the relationship between psychology and history and the different ways in which each discipline can enhance the understanding of the other. 

I am a member of the Culture and Social Psychology strand within the Open Psychology Research Centre.

A selection of my research publications can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online, or by selecting the ‘Publications’ tab on this page.

I am also the author of several teaching publications which are used in OU modules:

Byford, J. (2015). Conspiracy theories. In J. Turner and M-J Barker (eds), Living Psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary. Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp. 89-132. (DD210)

Byford, J., McAvoy, J. and Banyard, P. (2014). Investigating Intelligence. Milton Keynes: The Open University. (DE100).

Byford, J. (2014). The importance of replication. In N. Brace and J. McAvoy (eds) Investigating Methods. Milton Keynes: The Open University. (DE100).

Brace, N. and Byford, J. (2012). Investigating Psychology: Key Concepts, Key Studies, Key Approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press and Milton Keynes: The Open University. (DE100).

Byford, J. (2009). Living together, living apart: The social life of the neighbourhood. In S.Taylor, S.Hinchliffe, J.Clarke and S.Bromley (Eds.) Making Social Lives, The Open University, pp. 245–288. (DD101)

Teaching interests

I am currently a member of the DE300 module team.  

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
CCIG: Psycho-Social ProgrammeProgrammeFaculty of Social Sciences
Centre for Citizenship, Identifies and Governance (CCIG)CentreFaculty of Social Sciences
Heritage Studies Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts


Rescuing the ‘Sava victims’ from oblivion and denial: History and memory of the last Ustasha crime in Sisak (Spasavanje savskih žrtava od zaborava i negiranja: istorija i sećanje na poslednje ustaške zločine u Sisku) (2023)
Byford, Jovan
Tragovi : časopis za srpske i hrvatske teme, 6(2) (pp. 7-53)

[Book review] Jelena Đureinović: The Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia. Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution (2021-05-26)
Byford, Jovan
Comparative Southeast European Studies, 69(1) (pp. 167-169)

Accounts of a troubled past: Psychology, history, and texts of experience (2017-02)
Byford, J and Tileagă, C
Qualitative Psychology, 4(1) (pp. 101-117)

Qualitative psychology and the archive: Introduction to the special section (2017-02)
Tileagă, C. and Byford, J.
Qualitative Psychology, 4(1) (pp. 55-57)

Social psychology, history, and the study of the Holocaust: the perils of interdisciplinary “borrowing” (2014-11)
Byford, Jovan and Tileagă, Cristian
Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 20(4) (pp. 349-364)

Remembering Jasenovac: survivor testimonies and the cultural dimension of bearing witness. (2014-04-01)
Byford, Jovan
Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 28(1) (pp. 58-84)

“Shortly afterwards, we heard the sound of the gas van”: survivor testimony and the writing of history in socialist Yugoslavia (2010-04)
Byford, Jovan
History and Memory, 22(1) (pp. 5-47)

When I say 'the Holocaust', I mean 'Jasenovac': Remembrace of the Holocaust in contemporary Serbia (2007-04)
Byford, Jovan
East European Jewish Affairs, 37(1) (pp. 51-74)

Distinguishing ‘Anti-Judaism’ from ‘Antisemitism’: Recent Championing of Serbian Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović (2006-03)
Byford, Jovan
Religion, State and Society, 34(1) (pp. 7-31)

'Serbs never hated the Jews': the denial of antisemitism in Serbian Orthodox Christian culture (2006)
Byford, Jovan
Patterns of Prejudice, 40(2) (pp. 159-180)

From "Traitor" to "Saint": Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović in Serbian Public Memory (2004-01)
Byford, Jovan
Analysis of Current Trends In Antisemitism, 22 (pp. 1-41)

Christian Right-Wing Organizations and the Spreading of Anti-Semitic Prejudice in Post-Milosevic Serbia: The Case of the Dignity Patriotic Movement (2002-07)
Byford, J.
East European Jewish Affairs, 32(2) (pp. 43-60)

Anchoring and objectifying 'neocortical warfare': re-presentation of a biological metaphor in Serbian conspiracy literature (2002)
Byford, Jovan
Papers on Social Representations, 11(3) (pp. 3.1-3.14)

The emergence of antisemitic conspiracy theories in Yugoslavia during the war with NATO (2001-10-01)
Byford, J. and Billig, M.
Patterns of Prejudice, 35(4) (pp. 50-63)

Picturing Genocide in the Independent State of Croatia: Atrocity Images and the Contested Memory of the Second World War in the Balkans (2020-06-25)
Byford, Jovan
War, Culture and Society
ISBN : 9781350015975 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic

Staro sajmište: Mesto sećanja, zaborava i sporenja [Staro Sajmište: A site remembered, forgotten, contested] (2011-12-07)
Byford, Jovan
ISBN : 978-86-7202-131-8 | Publisher : Beogradski centar za ljudska prava | Published : Belgrade

Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction (2011-10-07)
Byford, Jovan
ISBN : 9780230272798 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

Denial and Repression of Antisemitism: Post-Communist Remembrance of the Serbian Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović (2008)
Byford, Jovan
ISBN : 978-963-9776-15-9 | Publisher : Central European University Press | Published : Budapest, Hungary

Teorija zavere: Srbija protiv 'novog svetskog poretka' [Conspiracy theory: Serbia vs. the New World Order] (2006)
Byford, Jovan
ISBN : 86-7202-083-9 | Publisher : Beogradski centar za ljudska prava | Published : Belgrade, Serbia

Potiskivanje i poricanje antisemitizma: Secanje na vladiku Nikolaja Velimirovica u savremenoj srpskoj pravoslavnoj kulturi [Repression and denial of antisemitism: memory of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic in contemporary Serbian Orthodox culture] (2005)
Byford, Jovan
ISBN : 86-7208-117-X | Publisher : HCHRS | Published : Belgrade, Serbia

Conspiracy Theories (2021)
Byford, Jovan
In: Goldberg, Sol; Ury, Scott and Weiser, Kalman eds. Key Concepts in the Study of Antisemitism. Palgrave Critical Studies of Antisemitism and Racism (pp. 79-92)
ISBN : 9783030516581 | Publisher : Palgrave | Published : Basingstoke

The Political Instrumentalization of a Site of the Holocaust: Contested Memories of the Semlin Camp in Belgrade (2021)
Byford, Jovan
In: Ognjenovic, Gorana and Jozelic, Jasna eds. Nationalization and Politicization of History in Former Yugoslavia. Modernity, Memory and Identity in South-East Europe (pp. 95-120)
Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan

The Emotional and Political Power of Images of Suffering: Discursive Psychology and the Study of Visual Rhetoric (2019-02-11)
Byford, Jovan
In: Gibson, Stephen ed. Discourse, Peace and Conflict: Discursive Psychology Perspectives. Peace Psychology Book Series (pp. 285-302)
ISBN : 978-3-319-99093-4 | Publisher : Springer

Put do “srpskog Yad Vashema”: Manipulacije povijesti logora Sajmište i Jasenovac [The Road to a ‘Serbian Yad Vashem’: Manipulation of the history of Sajmište and Jasenovac] (2018-04)
Byford, Jovan
In: Benčić, Andriana; Odak, Stipe and Lucić, Danijela eds. Jasenovac: manipulacije, kontroverze i povijesni revizionizam [Jasenovac: Manipulations, Controversies and Historical Revisionism] (pp. 87-110)
ISBN : 978-953-7895-10-5 | Publisher : Javna ustanova Spomen područje Jasenovac | Published : Jasenovac

Picturing Jasenovac: Atrocity Photography Between Evidence and Propaganda (2018)
Byford, Jovan
In: Frubis, Hildegard; Oberle, Clara and Pufelska, Agnieszka eds. Fotografien aus den Lagern des NS-Regimes: Beweissicherung und ästhetische Praxis. Schriften des Centrums für jüdische Studien (pp. 227-248)
ISBN : 978-3205206477 | Publisher : Böhlau Verlag | Published : Vienna

Beyond belief: the social psychology of conspiracy theories and the study of ideology (2014-03-24)
Byford, Jovan
In: Antaki, Charles and Condor, Susan eds. Rhetoric, Ideology and Social Psychology: Essays in Honour of Michael Billig. Explorations in Social Psychology (pp. 83-94)
ISBN : 978-0-415-82067-7 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Between marginalisation and instrumentalization: Holocaust memory in Serbia since the late 1980s (2013-07-01)
Byford, Jovan
In: Himka, John-Paul and Michlic, Joanna Beata eds. Bringing the Dark Past to Light: the Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe (pp. 516-548)
ISBN : 978-0-8032-2544-2 | Publisher : University of Nebraska Press | Published : Lincoln, NE

Testimony (2013-05)
Byford, Jovan
In: Keightley, Emily and Pickering, Michael eds. Research Methods for Memory Studies. Research Methods for the Arts and Humanities (pp. 200-214)
ISBN : 9780748645961 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh

Négocier un lieu dans la mémoire collective pour la destruction des Juifs de Serbie : le cas du Judenlager Semlin [Negotiating a place for the destruction of Jews in Serbian public memory: the case of the Semlin Judenlager] (2012-04-04)
Byford, Jovan
In: Bertinchamps, Philippe ed. Staro Sajmište, un camp de concentration (pp. 169-201)
ISBN : 9782352701279 | Publisher : Non Lieu | Published : Paris

Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović: 'Lackey of the Germans' or a 'Victim of Fascism'? (2011-10-31)
Byford, Jovan
In: Ramet, Sabrina P. and Listhaug, Ola eds. Serbia and the Serbs in World War Two (pp. 128-154)
ISBN : 9780230278301 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

The collaborationist administration and the treatment of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Serbia (2011-10-21)
Byford, Jovan
In: Ramet, Sabrina P. and Listhaug, Ola eds. Serbia and the Serbs in World War Two (pp. 109-127)
ISBN : 9780230278301 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

The willing bystanders: Dimitrije Ljotic, ‘Shield Collaboration’ and the destruction of Serbia’s Jews (2011-05-30)
Byford, Jovan
In: Haynes, Rebecca and Rady, Martyn eds. In the Shadow of Hitler: Personalities of the Right in Central and Eastern Europe
ISBN : 978-1-84511-697-2 | Publisher : I.B. Tauris | Published : London, U.K.

Η «ημιαναγνώριση» του Ολοκαυτώματος: Αναζητώντας μια θέση στη δημόσια μνήμη της Σερβίας για την εξόντωση των Εβραίων [‘Half-Recognizing’ the Holocaust: Remembrance of the Semlin camp in Belgrade since the 1980s] (2011-05)
Byford, Jovan
In: Αντωνίου, Γιώργος; Δορδανάς, Στράτος; Ζάϊκος, Νίκος and Μαραντζίδης, Νίκος eds. Το ολοκαύτωμα στα Βαλκάνια [Holocaust in the Balkans] (pp. 155-206)
ISBN : 9789604582914 | Publisher : Epikentro | Published : Thessalonika

Psychology and History: Interdisciplinary Explorations (2014-02-20)
Tileagă, Cristian and Byford, Jovan eds.
ISBN : 9781107034310 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge