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ACS Bulletin no. 70, 2023

Annual President's Note

Dear colleagues,

The 55th ASEEES Convention took place in Philadelphia (Marriott Downtown) from November 30 to December 3, preceded by a smaller virtual event from October 19 to

20, 2023. The theme of this year’s convention was “Decolonization.” As usual, we provide a summary of papers that focused on the Croatian culture and history, some of which employed the decolonization framework as one of their methodological tools, while others explored Croatian topics from a range of different perspectives.

The business meeting of the Association for Croatian Studies took place Friday, December 1 from 6-7 in Meeting Room 412 of the conference hotel and continued over dinner in La Fontana della Citta at 1701 Spruce Street. Steve Rukavina, a co-founder of the National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) joined the ACS members for dinner. The group in attendance included both Croatian and U.S. based scholars who continued their last year’s discussion about fundraising efforts to facilitate participation in ASEEES, in particular of early-career scholars from Croatia as well as other scholars working on Croatian themes who may need financial assistance for conference travel. Further steps are being made in establishing a peer-review process of The Journal of Croatian Studies edited by Dr. Vladimir Bubrin and Dr. Vinko Grubišić, and available through the Croatian Academy of America. Those in attendance reelected the current ACS Board for the new term of two years.

Potential panel topics for the 56th ASEEES Convention in Boston were discussed as well. The event will take place from November 21 - 24, 2024 in Boston Marriott Copley Place (with virtual convention from October 17 to 18, 2024) and the 2024 theme is “Liberation”. The deadline for submission of panel and roundtable proposals is March 1, 2024. If you are interested to participate and are looking for scholars to form a panel, please write to any of the Board members.

Wishing you all merry Christmas a happy and prosperous New Year,

Aida Vidan, President

John Kraljic, Vice-President

Ellen Elias Bursać, Treasurer

Nick Novosel, Secretary

Ivo Šoljan, Secretary




Panel: Imaginaries of Disinformation: Conspiracies, Memories, and Explanatory Traditions


“Anchoring COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories in the Balkan and Global Conspiratorial Tradition in Croatia”

Nebojša Blanuša, University of Zagreb


Dealing with the results of two research projects, PRO-FACT and REDACT, this paper provides the analysis of the embeddedness of COVID-19 conspiracy theories in global and local conspiratorial tradition in Croatia. According to the first study, based on an online survey, conducted in 2022 on a nationally representative sample of Internet users (n=1401), we have identified that believing in COVID-19 conspiracy theories comprises a monolithic way of thinking. Further analysis of more robust relationships among various forms of conspiracisms revealed that COVID-19 conspiracy theories were crafted on the global conspiracy theories and have used them as the more general discursive framework. Although we have used COVID-19 conspiracy theories developed in the regional context of the Balkans, their language and frame of reference seems to be the part of the same global conspiracism. Furthermore, very strong relationships of both global and COVID-19 conspiracism with the right-wing populist conspiracism (believing that international actors working behind the scenes are taking their country away) and nationalist conspiracism (believing in machinations of internal and external enemies of Croatia since the beginning of the 1990s), suggest the presence of the more general tendency of conspiratorial mentality of sieged nation. This can be interpreted that coronavirus - as an invisible enemy which makes even the air you breathe dangerous, together with the social anxieties and institutional burden it provoked on a global scale - also produces specific conspiratorial imagination, based on already established tradition, best described by Todorova (2009: 17) as “howling Balkan conspiracy theories and the propensity to blame one or the other or all great powers for their fate”. Our second study, based on ethnography further corroborates these results by showing the embeddedness of COVID-19 conspiracy theories mostly in the framework of global conspiratorial beliefs about the Great Replacement and the Great Reset.


Panel: Monuments and Identities as Forms of Colonization and Decolonization Processes in Croatia

Chair/discussant: John Peter Kraljic, Croatian Academy of America

“(De)colonization: Krk Island in the 15th Century and the Dawn of Venetian Rule”

Tomislav Galović, University of Zagreb


In the late 15th century, the Island of Krk became the last Croatian island to fall under Venetian rule. This paper examines the role played by new colonists brought to the Island in overturning the previous feudal order and makes particular note of the decolonizing changes made with respect to public heraldic symbols on the Island resulting from the change in sovereignty. The paper presents two processes that took place on the island of Krk at the end of the Middle Ages. The first was settling of the island from 1451 to 1463 by the people originally from the mainland estates of the Frankapan counts during the time of the Krk Count Ivan VII Frankapan. The second was the process of moving individual families to the island of Krk after it was fully taken over by the Republic of Venice (1480). These were the families who were needed to conduct administrative tasks on Krk. Particular emphasis is given to an analysis of the symbols of power during the era of the Frankapan counts of Krk and during the period of Venetian rule. During his tenure as the first provveditore of Krk, Antonio Vinciguerra, a Venetian diplomat, writer and chronicler, removed the Frankapan coats of arms at public places and replaced them the Venetian republic’s symbols: the winged lion, an attribute of St. Mark the Evangelist.


“Processes of Decolonization in Rijeka in Modern Times”

Željko Bartulović, University of Rijeka


Rijeka has had a succession of rulers, each of whom stamped its own identity on the City while eliminating the identity favored by its predecessors. After being established as a civic “island” inside a feudal environment in the 18th century, the Hungarian rulers of the City sought to build a sui generis “Fiuman” identity, to be followed by two decolonization processes: an Italian one after World War I and a Yugoslav one after World War II. This paper examines these in turn, using the fate of public monuments raised by each of these rulers as examples of decolonization efforts.


“Early 20th Century Public Monuments in Croatia and Their Fate: Decolonizing and Recolonizing the Habsburg Heritage”

Dragan Damjanović, University of Zagreb


This paper explores the fate of Habsburg monuments erected in Croatia in the years immediately preceding Word War I. The destruction or removal of these monuments after the War is an indicator of radical decolonization in Croatia in relation to the disintegrated Austro-Hungarian Monarchy as they were considered indicators of either colonization imposed from Vienna or self-colonization imposed by local lackeys. The paper further examines the “discovery” of interest in common Central European history during the 1980s and in the following decades which have led to the revaluation of the Habsburg heritage in Croatia.


Panel: Folklore and Crisis: Dealing with Shifting Realities

“Gazija or Guzija?: Crossing the Line of Hate Speech in Bosnian Anti-Migrant Nativism”

Dorian B Juric, Indiana University


In 2018 when flows of migrants were re-routed through Bosnia-Herzegovina and bottle-necked in the north-western Bosnian Krajina region, there was a local outpouring of support and voluntarism. Growing subsequent waves of migrants, acts of criminality and chaos, and a lethargic state response quickly soured relations between guest and host and precipitated the emergence of a number of small networks of nativist activists. While not as extreme as similar groups in other regions of the Balkans who turned militant, these networks fought for a return to normality in their region while sending a clear message that their new guests were no longer welcome. In this presentation, I explore the role that rumor, conspiracy theory, folk poetry, and song played in motivating and escalating nativist activism and conveying anti-migrant messaging in the heat of the crisis, as well as how those sentiments obscured the complex realities of on-the-ground human interactions.


Roundtable: Introducing New Yugoslav Studies

Maša Kolanović, University of Zagreb

“Challenging Reduction: Literary and Cultural Intervention in the Field of Yugoslav Studies”


Why study Yugoslavia (and what Yugoslavia)? Why now? What critical insight can one gain by turning to a state, time, and culture that seem to have long disappeared? How can study of the Yugoslav experience be relevant today to those interested in other regional and historical phenomena? Our interdisciplinary panel addresses these and similar questions in a lightning round format designed to introduce the new, ASEEES-affiliated Yugoslav Studies Association. The “new” in the New Yugoslav Studies refers not only to a renewed scholarly interest in a country that no longer exists, but also to a methodological orientation shared by many of its members: an unwillingness to accept the fall of Yugoslavia as the only lens through which its historical, political, and cultural significance is to be viewed. Finally, it also signals an orientation toward the future of Yugoslav research in which critical, social scientific, and cultural/artistic interventions matter again—in the region and beyond.


Panel: Documentary Literature: Aesthetics, Politics, and Gender

Gordana Crnković, University of Washington

“Replaying Their Voices: Alenka Mirković’s Report on Reporting”


In her book 91.6 MHz: With a Voice Against the Guns, Alenka Mirković, a schoolteacher turned into a radio journalist, recreates her own brief involvement with Croatia’s 91.6 MHz radio station, a  local station in Vukovar whose programming attempted to mitigate the crescendo of voices and events preceding the war in Croatia and the large-scale destruction of Vukovar itself in the Fall of 1991. The paper focuses on the book’s news report-like recreation of a multitude of individualized voices on and off the radio, and on the dynamics between voices that increasingly harmonize into a choir vs. those attempting to remain distinct and idiosyncratic.


Panel: War and Environmental Knowledge: Knowing Forests, Air, and Water during the Caucasian War, the Cold War, and the Yugoslav Wars

Chair: Vjeran Pavlaković, University of Rijeka


Josef Djordjevski, University of Graz

“From Warscapes to Tourismscapes: Conflict and Commodification in the Former Yugoslavia's Protected Bodies of Water”


This paper examines the legacies of conflict and war in some of the former Yugoslavia's most significant bodies of water (Krka, Plitvice, Una). By focusing on the environmental damages in these areas, the paper reveals interdependencies between tourism, expert knowledge, and environmental protection during and after conflict, revealing long term legacies. The paper argues that the legacies of warfare and conflict, and evolving understandings of the environmental effects of war, led to increased overdependence on tourism in these protected areas.


Panel: Building with a Purpose: Reinforcing Social Norms through Different Mediums

Chair/discussant: Josef Djordjevski, University of Graz


“Memorial Spaces and Unfreedoms: Monuments, Museums and the Recreation of Mass Incarceration” 

Vjeran Pavlaković, University of Rijeka


This paper examines how museums and monuments recreate the sense of mass incarceration, through visual effects, sounds, and other affective strategies. Memorial spaces use darkness, confined space, and authentic historical objects to give contemporary visitors the sense of being restricted in order to have empathy with the victims of authoritarian regimes. Drawing on case studies from the former Yugoslavia, Poland, and elsewhere, this talk seeks to explore how unfreedoms are experienced by visitors of “dark tourist” sites and the challenges facing memorial builders in balancing a dignified exploration of difficult pasts with the urge to create a spectacle. For example, the designers of the Jasenovac Memorial Site effectively created a sense of foreboding and oppression in the museum space but failed to adequately narrate the tragedy of the concentration camp and the regime that built it.   


“Claiming Space and Claiming the Past: Commemorations as Tools of Social Division in Mostar and the Croatian Krajina”

Blaze Joel, University of California, Berkeley

This paper analyzes how social division is maintained and reinforced in multi-ethnic societies that have experienced ethnic conflict through an examination of Mostar and the Croatian Krajina in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia. The conflict fundamentally changed the way the different ethnic groups interacted with each other and made exclusivist perceptions of ethnicity more salient, turning 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 history of the conflicts in Mostar and the Krajina is contested, as neither side can easily claim victimhood without an extremely selective memory of the conflict.


“Ugly Adriatic Cinema: Deconstructing Gender, Class, and Nation in Post-Yugoslav Film”

 Samantha Farmer, U of Michigan

Amid growing scholarly and cultural interest in deindustrialization in the Global North and the “disappearance” of the working class, there has also been an increase in post-Yugoslav films and literature attentive to issues of class, gender, and region that construct cognitive maps of the present and position the individual and formerly socialist spaces in a larger global totality. This paper argues that recent films like Quit Staring at My Plate (2016), Mater (2019), Mare (2020), and Murina (2021) depict the Adriatic Coast in a markedly ugly key and make interventions into its contradictory symbolic imaginary as an underdeveloped province and a profitable fount of national identity and Mediterranean heritage. These films document the allegedly “disappeared” working class while critiquing its repatriarchalization, avoiding touristic spaces in favor of working-class hinterlands and juxtaposing the freedom of the open sea with the cramped architecture and surveillance of the patriarchal home. Girls and women in these films amass negative affects and gendered melancholy that express an embodied refusal of the control of their fathers as well as an emergent collective desire for the coast and their bodies to be livable and autonomous places.


Panel: Decolonizing East European Studies, International and Citizenship Education, and Practice

“Decolonizing Citizenship Education in Post-Socialist Croatia: A Transnational Feminist Approach”

Nana Gulic, University of Toronto


This paper challenges dominant ahistorical and genderless constructions of citizenship education (CE) in former socialist countries and societies such as Croatia. It examines Croatia’s citizenship education efforts (2015-2023) using a transnational feminist lens to map power relations and educational colonialities spanning across West, East, North and South. The paper analyses citizenship education in Croatia at the intersections of European Western Empires, Soviet hegemony, American liberal notions of “citizenship” and European Union colonial-like educational dependency, focusing especially on the continuous Eurocentricity of Citizenship Studies and Curricula in former socialist countries and globally. The paper conceptualizes forms of resistance to Citizenship Education in Croatia as a form of decoloniality that refuses such hegemonic formations.


Roundtable /Book Discussion: Socialist Yugoslavia and the Non-Aligned Movement: Social, Cultural, Political, and Economic Imaginaries, ed. Paul Stubbs

Chair: Paul Stubbs, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb

Participants: Anna Calori, University of Vienna, Jure Ramsak, Science and Research Centre of Koper, Paul Stubbs, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Dora Tot, University of Florence


The book „Socialist Yugoslavia and the Non-Aligned Movement: social, cultural, political and economic imaginaries“ (edited by Paul Stubbs, McGill-Queens' University Press, 2023) gathers eighteen contributors from diverse disciplines to take a fresh look at the role of socialist Yugoslavia in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). NAM not only offered an alternative to the Cold War polarization between East and West but also expressed the hopes of a world emerging from colonial domination, a form of counter-hegemonic worldmaking in Getachew's terms. Socialist Yugoslavia played an important, if contradictory, role in supporting decolonial movements and post-colonial nation states in the Global South within and beyond its commitment to NAM itself. Recent scholarship has challenged a „structured forgetting“ of this role and has addressed both „top-down“ diplomatic endeavors and more „bottom-up“ architectural, scientific, educational and cultural exchanges. In this book panel roundtable, the editor and author of the Introductory chapter (Stubbs), the author of a chapter „Shades of North-South Economic Detente: Non-Aligned Yugoslavia and Neutral Austria Compared“ (Ramšak), together with two specialists on the topic (Calori and Tot), discuss the book in relation to existing scholarship and set out what they consider to be the most important themes for future research.


Panel: Decolonizing the Field: Current Research in Post-Yugoslav and Post-Soviet Russophone Studies

Chair: Danijela Lugarić Vukas, University of Zagreb


“'Social Knowledge' of Literature in Post-Yugoslav Studies”

 Maša Kolanović, University of Zagreb

During and after the breakup of Yugoslavia, the mainstream political and media discourse largely shaped knowledge about the recent past and contemporary times, whereby reductive narratives about issues such as Yugoslav socialism or the war of the 90s spread capillarity through education and other forms of institutional mediation of knowledge in post-Yugoslav space. In an attempt to question such narratives on recent socialist past and transition marked by war, reconciliation and economic shift to capitalism, I take contemporary Croatian literature that reflect those topics particularly instructive as a specific type of “social knowledge” on the aforementioned issues. Following Rita Felski’s insights that “literature, due to its imaginative, i.e. fictional writing, cannot automatically be excluded from participation in the practices of acquiring knowledge” and that the insights into the world and society we gain from literary texts are “dependent on a recognizable repertoire of techniques, conventions and aesthetic possibilities” (Felski, 2016: 138), the presentation rethinks the framework for the analysis of the so-called “interpretive social knowledge” (Reed, 2011: 10) of contemporary literature and its uses in teaching and writing on post-Yugoslav key political and social issues which sometimes has a traumatic, sometimes cathartic and sometimes heuristic effect in classroom and public arena.


“Decolonizing Queer Studies in Post-Socialist Croatia: The Case of the queerANarchive Collective”

Vladislav Beronja, University of Texas, Austin


This paper looks at the decolonial potentials of transnational Balkan queer studies by situating non-normative sexualities in the context of the “long transition” from socialist to capitalist modes of production in (former) Yugoslavia and their attendant “affective economies” (Jelača, Kolanović, Lugarić 2017). In particular, I examine how the desire for queer history emerging in the postsocialist period— rather than indexing a unproblematically utopian politics and trajectories of liberation—can be conceptualized as a productive site in the ongoing and contingent struggle over “sexual hegemony” (Chitty 2020). Drawing on the work of the queerANarchive collective (based in Split, Croatia), I show aesthetic and archival modalities that aim to localize and decolonize queer histories in the European neoliberal present by establishing affective links with the queer socialist past, on the one hand; and by staging contemporary queer spaces and commons in the precarious zones still outside the reach of global capital, on the other.


“Specters of the Soviet Past: Memory Frictions in the Post-Soviet Russophone Novel of the 2010s”

Danijela Lugarić Vukas, University of Zagreb


This presentation is informed by two firm beliefs: first, that the topic of time is clearly important in exploring post-Soviet Russophone literature of the 2010s and, second, that the novel offers the richest and the most convincing sense of time. Departing from the premises that the written narrative, as a concretely realized worldview (Bakhtin), proposes a model of time as the focus and horizon of thought and experience (Currie 2007), my presentation aims to connect various novels of the 2010s with the framework of temporality. Moreover, by unifying discourse-orientated and structurally-focused approaches to the selected literary works, this presentation offers analysis of novels that are both “tales of time” (fable du temps) and “tales about time” (fable sur le temps) (Ricœur 1985), i.e. in which time is present as both a universal feature of narrative and its topic. In an attempt to present how one such analysis can offer potentially interesting counter-narrative to “historical and archival positivism” (Plotnikov, in: Гуманитарная наука…), which prevails knowledge-production process in contemporary Russian/Russophone humanities, at the end of this presentation I introduce how Mark Currie’s three notions of the contemporary, time-space compression, accelerated recontextualization, and archive fever, can be utilized in the analysis of the post-Soviet Russophone novel as three models of dealing with the ways in which the Soviet past reaches to the present.


Panel: Yugoslav Non-Aligned Encounters in the Global South II: Networks and Institutions

“Rejuvenating Non-Alignment: The 1970 Lusaka Summit”

Paul Stubbs, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb

Tvrtko Jakovina, University of Zagreb

The Non-Aligned summit in Lusaka, Zambia in 1970, in many ways, represented a new beginning for the movement after a lull in activities in the mid- to late-1960s. In this paper, we explore a number of themes relating to the summit itself and the nature of the Non-Aligned Movement after it. Crucially, the summit emphasized economic themes, with a Declaration on Non-Alignment and Economic Progress representing an early iteration of ideas that were to be enshrined in the New International Economic Order (NIEO), a product of close collaboration between the Non-Aligned Movement, the G77, and UNCTAD.


Panel: Socialism ili Barbarism XV: Class, Crisis and Commodification in the Late Socialist Cultural Production

“Film Work as Precarious Project Work: From Organizations of Associated Labour to Semi-Permanent Workgroups”

Jaka Primorac, Institute for Development and International Relations (Croatia)


In this presentation, by examining the policy instruments oriented towards the film industry in the late period of the former Yugoslavia, I try to show how the market principles based on the project logic, nested themselves within the models of organizing film work. This has been exacerbated by the entering of the Yugoslav film industry in the global film industry flows through the service production, that is, through catering of the so-called 'runaway productions'. First foreign film productions started to take place in the 1960s in the former Yugoslavia, with Jadran film (Zagreb, Croatia) and Avala film (Belgrade, Serbia) playing the key role, but the bigger productions came with the 1970s and 80s. The decentralization model of the Yugoslav cinematography introduced in 1962 enabled that different republics have their own film policy trajectory. In the case of the Socialist Republic of Croatia this model in 1967 was based though the Cinematography Fund oriented towards the production model of the author cinematography. In 1976, the Law on Cinematography based the film production on the basis of the self-management postulate that created the Self-Management Community for Cinematography of the Socialist Republic of Croatia (Samoupravna zajednica za kinematografiju SR Hrvatske (SIZ KIN)). Thus, in 80ies Croatia, with the strong film company and film studio Jadran film, the organization of the funding of SIZ KIN through project applications by film workers on the one hand, and working on the Hollywood and other market-based cinematographies’ films, the Yugoslav film workers have been among the first to experience the market project-to-project approach.

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