The process of nation building inside and outside the Balkans is one of the most studied phenomena of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this episode, we discuss the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina during Habsburg rule (1878-1918) with a particular focus on the activities of Serbian Orthodox actors. The Austro-Hungarian occupation provided a framework of imperial governance that innovated former Ottoman politics of ethno-confessional difference as well as spaces of socialization and communication. At the same time, publicists and scholars put effort in “educating” the lower classes of the population in terms of national belonging, divulgating everyday customs and religious rituals and trying to build the nation as an emotional community. This resulted in the foundation of new, “nationalized” conceptions of history blending what was described as folk culture and modern media such as journals and yearbooks. Serbian bourgeois nationalism claimed to be the only political movement that could overcome confessional fragmentation and form a modern society able to prosper and progress. This idea of “mastering” multiculturalism was also reflected by new interpretations of local and regional history which the protagonists of the national movement tried to popularize.
VISAGE/PAYSAGE – Kurtuluş: The last stop
By Gabriel Doyle
THE READER’S CORNER – Masha Gessen: “Where the Jews aren’t”
Book review by Agustin Cosovschi.
#026 – MARIE BOSSAERT: The making of Orientalism and Turkish Studies in Italy, 1861-1911
In this episode, we discuss the emergence and the development of Oriental and Turkish studies in post-unification Italy. Studying this process requires a reflection on State and nation-building through the construction of the infrastructure necessary for the production and the circulation of a “national” knowledge. A transnational perspective allows to understand the complexity of a discipline in flux, focusing on contacts of Italian scholars with Western European and Ottoman actors. In the framework of a broader Orientalist discourse in 19th and early 20th century Europe, the Italian case shows some peculiarities due to the proximity of pre-unitary Italian and Ottoman history in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Another important factor is Italy’s late but decisive imperialist turn, which resulted into the Italian-Ottoman war of 1911-1912. This event marked the beginning of a decade of conflicts in the region, it mobilized the Orientalists’ competences and irreversibly changed the field of Turkish Studies toward a more general nationalization of the discipline.
#025 – KLAUS BUCHENAU: Discussing corruption in Yugoslavia, 1918-2000
Historians can offer a perspective on corruption that goes beyond a normative and simplistic dimension. Approaching past discourses and events related to corruption allows to underline the transformation of its connotation through different periods and different socio-political systems. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941) offers a particularly interesting case study for reflecting on how debates on corruption intersected with the process of state formation, itself consisting of a centralist pattern on the basis of Ottoman and Habsburg imperial legacy. After 1945, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia redefined power and property relations with a clearly different ideological repertoire. However, corruption remained a relevant element for negotiation of power, elite circulation and generational dynamics until its dissolution and beyond.
#024 – ERIK JAN ZÜRCHER: Kemalism and the making of modern Turkey
In this episode, we discuss the emergence of the Turkish nationalist movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the establishment of a sovereign Republic of Turkey in 1923. As our guest Prof. Erik-Jan Zürcher notes, Kemalism can be studied both as a political transformation from armed struggle to a one-party state administration system and as a repertoire of discursive symbols based on the imaginary of nation, civilization, and modernity. This installment is structured along a series of lectures that Prof. Zürcher has given at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, in which he has framed Kemalism’s activism and worldview within its contemporary international context as well as along a broader chronological axis continuing into the 1950s.
#023 – IŞIL ERDINÇ: Turkish labor unions under AKP rule
Since 2002, when the Party of Development and Justice (AKP) seized power in Turkey, the relationship between state institutions and unions has changed toward polarization and fragmentation. Increasing interference of the government in unions’ internal affairs, explicit favoring the pro-AKP unions, has marginalised dissident confederations of workers, while former trans-union shared initiatives and platforms for defending workers’ rights have faded. In this episode, we approach the historical background of this setting in terms of economic and social transformation of Turkey during the last decades. Secondly, some patterns of union activism and the profiles of the actors involved are discussed. Thirdly, we provide an insight into some local configuration that show a limited, yet existing room for resistance against the AKP policies and state interference.
#022 – MILICA POPOVIĆ & JOVANA PAPOVIĆ: A look at Vučić’s Serbia and the emergence of new social movements
On 2 April 2017 Alexander Vučić became President of Serbia, winning the first round of the elections, obtaining a score of 55%, and leading in all districts of the country. The public perception and representation of Vučić within Serbia is biased by wide constraints on mainstream media, whereas foreign commentators have difficulties in defining his profile in between his former far-right party affiliation, his being “pro-European”, and the concerns about an authoritarian drift in the country. In this episode, we approach the background and the output of this event. By expanding the discussion beyond the domain of party politics and voting tendencies, we explore some aspects of Serbia’s economic landscape after the fall of Yugoslavia and embed more recent trends in a regional context. Most important, we discuss some emerging forms of social movements and their claims by introducing the impact of some factors such as the attitude of the youth, the perspective of the diaspora and the role that “Yugonostalgia” plays in contemporary politics.
Cover Photo by Julian Sandhagen