Annual President's Note
The 54th ASEEES Convention took place in two formats, virtually from October 13–14, and on location in Chicago, IL, at the Palmer House Hilton from November 10–13, 2022. The overarching theme of the convention was “Precarity” and the ACS members and their colleagues presented a broad range of papers focusing on various aspects of this notion within Croatian culture and history. Abstracts of these presentations are included below.
The business meeting of the Association for Croatian Studies took place on November 11, Fri at 7 p.m. in Salon 1, 3rd floor of The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. The members in attendance convened to discuss the panels for the 2023 ASEEES convention which will focus on “Decolonization” and will be held in October (virtually) and in Philadelphia in November 2023. In addition, given the ecological and financial burden, the Board has decided that from this point on only an electronic version of the Bulletin will be sent out. It has been confirmed that the Croatian academic institutions in their library catalogs include the link to ACS’ website and the existing Bulletins. A question of fundraising was discussed in particular to assist younger scholars working on Croatian topics and wishing to present at ASEEES. An official collaboration was established with ACAP, Association of Croatian American Professionals, whose Board member Katherine Sredl was in attendance and considered with the Board and the attendees the overlapping interests of the two organizations as well as potential mechanisms for a partnership. An expansion of Board functions to include a representative based in Croatia was suggested as well. The 54th issue of the Journal of Croatian Studies edited by Dr. Vladimir Bubrin and Dr. Vinko Grubisic is in preparation and will be available through membership with the Croatian Academy of America, CAA, and by order. All members are in favor of transiting to the peer-review status of the Journal. Those in attendance discussed also possibilities of ACS’ engagements at other national conferences.
Please note that ASEEES submission site for the next convention will open on January 15, 2023 and that the proposal deadline is March 15, 2023. As of this year individual submissions will no longer be accepted for the in-person convention. If you plan to travel to Philadelphia, you must submit your paper proposal as part of a panel.
With best wishes for a prosperous and productive year and we hope to see you in Philadelphia!
On behalf of the ACS Board
Together with New England Friends of Croatia, the ACS sponsored an event that took place in the Community Room of the Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA, on December 6, 2022 from 6:30 to 8:00pm. Two authors from Croatia, Jelena and Andrea Remetin of Yelo.hr, together with the renowned Croatian actress Jelena Miholjević presented their short story application Croatian Soundscript, available in both English and Croatian.
After Jelena and Andrea Remetin shared a demo of this engaging project as well as a couple of short films documenting its development and use, Jelena Miholjević read several stories to the audience. A lively discussion ensued about effective utilization of this innovative undertaking which has already found its purpose in Croatian language instruction and cultural dissemination as well as in the tourist domain. The authors made a gift of interactive books with 73 short stories in English and Croatian to the attendees. This app with stories about various cities has been activated in Chicago, New York, Boston, Split, Zagreb, islands of Hvar, Vis, Brač and Šolta, with future plans also for Rijeka and Paris. Croatian Soundscript was created in collaboration with The Zagreb Tourist Board, The Split Tourist Board, The Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia and Croatian Telekom. It received additional support from the Central Office for Croats Outside the Republic of Croatia and City of Split. The application is free so don’t hesitate to check it out!
ABSTRACTS OF PRESENTATIONS PERTAINING TO CROATIAN CULTURE AT ASEEES 2022
“Media, Solidarity, and the Challenging Afterlives of Precarious Times” (Session 1-01, Thu, November 10 @ 1:00-2:45 pm) at which Ivana Polic (UC San Diego) presented the paper “'Dajem ti srce, zemljo moja': Music and National (Dis)Unity in the Aftermath of 2020 Petrinja Earthquake in Croatia”:
Focusing on the unprecedented natural disaster caused by the 2020 earthquake that hit the town of Petrinja, Croatia, this study explores the role of music as both an instrument of creating national unity and an arena for debates surrounding the question of Croatia's contemporary national identity and its relationship to the turbulent process of state and nation building in the 1990s. The study, based on the analysis of music videos and lyrics frequently broadcasted on the national channels in the earthquake's aftermath, news reports, and social media archives, hopes to open up space for research on specific ways of music production and re-production during the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. In addition, it provides insight into new perspectives of looking at the relationship between popular music, politics and the formation and re-formation of national identity in the present-day Balkans.
“Figures of Precarity across the East/West Divide” (Session 3-09, Fri, November 11@ 8:00-9:45 am) at which Maša Kolanović (U of Zagreb) presented “Precarious Race Meets Working Class Slavs: Socialist Reconceptualization of Race and Class in East-European Travel Writings to the USA”:
During most of the 20th Century, the United States of America was the most prominent destination of modernity for travel writers from all over the Eastern Europe. It was a period when socialism and capitalism were competing as two main narratives of modernity, mostly on the terrain of technical progress and everyday life standard. Prominent Eastern European writers, journalists and intellectuals of the revolutionary left and of openly declared socialist provenance such as Vladimir Mayakovsky, Ilf and Petrov, Egon Ervin Kisch, Vladmir Dedijer and others wrote their travel writings after visiting the United States during the first half of the 20th century and later. This paper aims to reflect the specific quality of socialist perspective on precarious social and economic conditions in the 20th century USA which points on close connections of class and racial inequalities.
At the same session Vladislav Beronja (U of Texas at Austin) presented “Postsocialist Traumascapes: Dubravka Ugrešić's and Davor Konjikušić's 'There's Nothing Here!'”:
This paper examines Dubravka Ugrešić's and Davor Konjikušić's collaborative project, "There's Nothing Here!," in the broader context of photographic representation of Yugoslav socialist architecture. Conceived as a response to MoMA's 2019 exhibit, "Concrete Utopia," the essay captures, through text and image, the palimpsestic landscapes in Croatian borderlands shaped by both traumatic memory and forgetting in the wake of Yugoslav wars. I argue that the essay stages the loss of Yugoslavia and its architectural heritage not only as a material but also as symbolic void—a discursive silence around the effects of ethno-nationalist violence during and after the 1990s wars as well as the racialized extension of this violence towards non-European "others" on EU's new borders.
“Against the Grain: Voices of Opposition in Southeast European Literature, Film, and Culture” (Session 6-27, Fri, November 11@ 4:15-6:00 pm):
The panel looks into the examples of literature, music, film, and material culture from Yugoslavia and the countries of the post-Yugoslav region that can be seen as oppositional, in their different ways, to dominant political, cultural, or aesthetic trends in the region.
In this session Matthew T. Boyd (Ohio State U) presented “From the Other Side by Other Means: Politics, Neoliberalism, and Resistance in the Socialist Punk and New Wave of Yugoslavia”:
This paper focuses on the New Wave and Punk music and arts scenes of Yugoslavia, foregrounding and examining these as means of resisting the encroaching neoliberalism of that country’s late socialist period. It also traces the ways in which the 1980s late socialist New Wave and Punk music and cultures continue to exert influence on the region’s present political and cultural environment.
Gordana Crnković (U of Washington) presented “The Fairy Tale vs. the Real: Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić’s Long Century”:
The paper looks into the enduring legacy of Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić’s works and specifically into these works’ lasting, radically liberating or broadly “oppositional” tendencies. In particular focus is the idiosyncratic utopian dimension of the author’s fairy-tale collection Croatian Tales of Long Ago (Priče iz davnine, 1916), which does not revolve around more standard genre’s tropes but creates a more elusive and radical vision of change. Revolving around the internal change of people’s ways of seeing the world and themselves in it, this vision includes a different seeing of the relationship between people and the non-human nature. The paper touches on the ways in which specific aspects of the author’s language invoke this utopian vision, as well as on the ways in which adaptations of these fairy tales into other media, showing more or less sensitivity to their language, keep their vision alive.
Aida Vidan (Tufts U/Boston U) presented “Topography of Truth: Islands as Ethical Terra Firma in Three Films by Three Women Directors”:
Relying on the conceptual framework of islandology which perceives islands as sites of cultural difference, this paper investigates recent films by three female directors whose choice of insular locality questions both the mainstream ideology and reinforces the protagonists’ moral dilemmas. The films include Naomi Kawase’s True Mothers (2020), Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina (2021) and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter (2021) which all focus to a large extent on motherhood as a vehicle of repositioning the self and destabilizing the preexisting patriarchal societal parameters. Using Gilles Deleuze’s essay “Desert Islands” and his notion of island as a radical and absolute origin, this paper analyzes how the spatial determinant of an island inherently implies separation and discarding of the previous ethical scheme in which the subject experiences a trauma, and how it affects the process of recreation which is both redemptive and restorative. Choosing an island as one of the core elements of the mise-en-scène and situating their female protagonists within this ethically charged liminality, these three filmmakers, each in her own way, ensures “the survival of a sacred place in a world that is slow to re-begin” (Deleuze) and which is in its re-creation marked by indelible traces of feminine agency.
Pavle Levi (Stanford U) presented “Cut Ups: First Blood (Yugoslavia, Experiment, Hollywood)”
This talk calls attention to some complex but rarely explored 1980s cinematic, theoretical, and cultural junctures. Focusing on the peculiar production history of machine-made experimental films, it intersects activity on the socialist Yugoslavia's cine-club scene with major trends of Reaganite cinema in the United States. DIY structural-materialist film practice is juxtaposed with big-budget commercial filmmaking. Ideological dimension of genre film criticism in the late 1980s Yugoslavia is considered.
“The Legacy of Ethnic Conflict in the Balkans: Continuities from the Yugoslav Wars of Secession” (Session 7-38, Sat, November 12 @ 8:00-9:45 am) at which Sven Milekić (Maynooth U, Ireland) presented “Reconciling the Irreconcilables: How Croatian Government Pacified Veterans”:
Along with the political opposition, Croatian 1990s war veterans played a crucial role in the unrest against the 2000-03 centre-left government. Arguing their defensive role in the conflict, veterans protested the government’s readiness to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to prosecute war crimes committed by Croatian officers. Veterans used massive protests and threats of violence to stop or postpone these prosecutions, contributing to the breakdown in Croatia-ICTY cooperation. As the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) came back to power in late 2003, the new Prime Minister Ivo Sanader – once a star of veteran protests – again improved the cooperation with the ICTY, brokering extradition of Croatian officers. Trying to speed up EU accession talks, Sanader further continued Croatia’s cooperation on locating and extraditing Croatian general Ante Gotovina, fugitive deified by veterans and right-wing. While before 2004 veteran associations rejected any notion of Gotovina’s extradition, they now promoted Sanader’s mantra that “he is innocent but must prove that before the ICTY”. Thus, despite many internal conflicts, associations approved of Croatia’s role in arresting and extraditing Gotovina in 2005. Using media sources, associations’ documents and public records, the paper will show how some veterans rebelled against this discursive shift on war crimes committed by Croatian troops. The paper will also analyse how associations accepted this shift while arguing that they did not betray their prior patriotic positions. Finally, the paper will demonstrate how Sanader managed to reconcile the irreconcilable to achieve strategic goals.
At the same session Blaze Joel (UC Berkeley) presented “The Last Berlin Walls in Europe: Violence, Memory, and Social Division in Vukovar and Prijedor”:
This paper analyzes how the breakup of Yugoslavia and the memorialization of that conflict hardened and maintains social division between Croats and Serbs in Vukovar, Croatia, and Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs in Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both of these cities were among the first locations of violence during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, respectively, and the dynamics of the inter-communal violence profoundly changed the ways that the communities’ different sociopolitical groups interacted. These conflicts made exclusivist perceptions of ethnicity more salient and turned ethnic identities into both the primary lens through which society is viewed and into directly oppositional forces, developments that have been reinforced by the memorial cultures and demographic landscapes of the cities today.
The Breakup of Yugoslavia in Vukovar – specifically the siege of the city and violence that followed its fall in 1991 – and Prijedor – principally the operation of concentration camps in the “Prijedor Triangle” in 1992 – have led to the construction of a historical memory in both communities that centers on the martyrdom of Croats and Bosniaks, respectively. My paper will examine how that narrative of martyrdom began during the conflicts, how it has been maintained in the post-conflict era, and how the oppositional group – ethnic Serbs in both cases – has responded to it with a martyrdom narrative of their own. It will also discuss the larger implications of these narratives of martyrdom on politics and social life and how the creation and maintenance of completely divergent histories has driven social division in both communities.
“Socialist Technopolitics and the Making of Place” (Session 8-17, Sat, November 12 @ 10:15am-12pm) at which Brigitte Le Normand (Maastricht U, Netherlands) presented “Understanding Rijeka’s Postwar Urban Development as a Technopolitical Maritime Assemblage”:
In this paper, I examine the dynamic interplay between different institutional actors, policies, and technological artefacts in the development of Rijeka after the Second World War. Formerly Hungary’s main port in Habsburg times, it endured a period of stagnation under Italian control. In 1945 it became part of Yugoslavia, and was assigned the role of becoming the central hub for building Yugoslavia’s merchant marine. I argue that Rijeka’s evolution as a place is best understood as the product of negotiation and competition between actors operating at the local, national, regional, and global scale, and infrastructural legacies from earlier eras. In particular, I examine how Yugoslav policy-makers repurposed Habsburg infrastructure to advance their economic and geopolitical ambitions, and how this led to the intensification of regional cooperation; the opportunities offered, and constraints imposed, by Rijeka’s geological and geographical situation; and the role of authorities operating at the local level (railway, port, and urban planning). Building on the new historiography that shines a spotlight on the global entanglements of Eastern European state socialism, and insights from environmental history and science and technology studies, I argue that the urban history in socialist Yugoslavia needs to take into consideration not only human actors at the local level, but also the agency of the non-human (geology, infrastructure), as well as the embeddedness of cities in different geographical scales.
“The Precarious Position of the Croats in Istria and the Kvarner” (Session 11-24, Sat, November 12 @ 5:00-6:45 pm) chaired by John Peter Kraljic, (Croatian Academy of America) focused on the northeastern Adriatic coast as an area where the Latin, Germanic and Slavic worlds meet. While in more recent times this conjunction has led to an appreciation of the multiculturalism of this part of Europe, it has also caused, in more contentious times, certain ethnic groups to attempt to dominate others. This panel focused on the Croats of Istria and the Kvarner who, as the main ethnic group in the region, were often subjected to various forms of political and cultural repression by other societies in an attempt to eliminate their national individuality.
Papers presented include Tomislav Galović’s (U of Zagreb) “Security vs. Precarity: The Kvarner Islands as a Place of Security for Glagolitic Culture in the Context of the Ottoman Threat (15th & 16th Centuries)”:
The 15th and 16th centuries were marked by Ottoman conquests and incursions significantly reducing the territory of Croatia and leading to the obliteration of its culture in those lands which came under Ottoman administration. In this context, the Kvarner Islands, especially Krk, became one of the focal points of refuge for those fleeing the Ottomans. This paper places particular stress on the development of Glagolitic culture in this era and how the mixture of the indigenous inhabitants on the Kvarner Islands and new comers affected same and ensured its survival into the 19th century.
Elvis Orbanić (Croatian Academy of
Sciences and Arts) presented “The Precarious Survival of the Glagolitic Script in Istria from the End of the 16th to the Beginning of the 19th Centuries”:
The Council of Trent marked a new period
in the history of the Church, with the introduction of systematic efforts to raise the level of education of the clergy. Among other things, this required the clergy in Istria to attend Latin seminaries while ceasing to study Glagolitic, culminating in the establishment of a central Latin seminary for all Istrian dioceses in Gorizia in 1818. This paper reviews the work of the local Croat clergy in Istria during the period from the late 16th century to 1818 to restrain the Latinization of parishes which had for centuries used Old Church Slavonic and Glagolitic.
In the same session Željko Bartulović, (U of Rijeka) presented “The Precarious Position of Croats in the Determination of the Legal Status of Rijeka and the Kvarner, 1868-1941”
This paper examines the precarious position of Croats related to the legal status of
Rijeka and the Kvarner commencing with the 1868 settlement when Hungary, as the
stronger power, imposed its will to create the so-called corpus separatum in spite of the
almost uniform opposition of the Croats. The weakness of the Croats on these matters
was reaffirmed following the settlements made in the wake of World War I (Treaty of
Rapallo (1920) and the Treaty of Rome (1924) as well as the Nettuno Conventions (1925)
and the conquest of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers and the formation of the
Independent State of Croatia.
"Alienation or Self-management: Labor and Social Relations in Yugoslav Socialism"
(Session 12-40, Sun, November 13 @ 8:00-9:45 am): In 1950 Yugoslavia introduced the system of workers’ self-management which later evolved into the all-encompassing system of social self-management. Following the Marxist idea of withering away of the state, gradually the working people and citizens were supposed to take over and the society was to rule itself. However, it was hard to implement this idea thoroughly, so de-etatization and de-bureaucratization turned to be permanent issues. Various bodies and organizations, both in the work sphere and other areas, were in charge of preventing alienation, implementing social policies and self-management rights and obligations. From historical and anthropological perspectives, the papers in this panel address different aspects of the social mosaic in Yugoslav socialism and after, reaching from theoretical background to microstructures within socialist Croatia. The focus is on industrial shopfloor relations, benefits within the social welfare system and practices of self-management.
Papers include Tina Filipović’s (Juraj Dobrila U of Pula) “Veterans between Precariousness and Prosperity: The Structure of Benefits and its Local Repercussions in Late Socialist Croatia”:
Partisan war veterans in socialist Croatia were guaranteed by law a whole range of social and material benefits: from more favorable conditions for acquiring a pension, various health, and financial benefits, all the way to resolving the housing issue and obtaining professional retraining. However, not all veterans claimed equal rights to state social welfare. Until the amendments to the law in the late 1960s and the 1970s, many of them did not manage to get various types of assistance needed. The veterans' organization, SUBNOR, worked actively to improve the care system for its members, who with age and impaired health fell into increasing needs each year, further burdened by the general decline in social standards in the 1980s. Various cases from municipalities in this presentation provide insight into the effectiveness of the social welfare system in responding to the needs of aging revolutionaries.
At the same session Igor Duda (Juraj Dobrila U of Pula) presented “Rights without Obligations?: Practicing and Protecting Social Self-management in Croatia in the 1970s and 1980s”:
Yugoslav Constitution of 1974 introduced the social attorney of self-management with offices at the municipal, regional, republican and federal levels. Within the legal framework set by the Constitution and new applicable laws, the task of this sort of ombudsman was to protect the principles and institutions of social self-management, social property, workers and their rights. Reports of the Croatian social attorney of self-management, their municipal counterparts and notes on individual cases reveal the actions from above and below, reaching from counselling to court proceedings, with the goal to overcome the disrupted self-management relations and establish the desired social harmony among the actors, their obligations, responsibilities and rights.
Please see below for the ACS Membership Form. Thank you!
Palmer House Hilton Hotel, November 2022.