Accepted paper:

Osijek's urban influence on counternarratives to nationalism in a formerly occupied Croatian village


Michael Allen (Rutgers University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on 15 months of ethnographic research, this paper analyzes the influence of the city of Osijek in creating counternarratives against and complicating public manifestations of Croatian nationalism among young adults living in a formerly occupied village.

Paper long abstract:

Master commemorative narratives (Yael Zerubavel), the stories that the nation tells to itself and to the world about itself, are one of the most effective tools of mnemonic socialization (Eviatar Zerubavel) that functions to create a national imaginary. However, they are never static or uncontested - counternarratives and countermemories (Michel Foucault) confront and destabilize them. This paper analyzes the influence of the Croatian city of Osijek in creating counternarratives to hegemonic nationalism among young adults living in a nearby formerly occupied village. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic research conducted between 2012-2014, it examines how men and women in their twenties who work, socialize, and attend university in Osijek (with a population of around 100,000), but live outside of the urban zone complicate public manifestations of Croatian nationalism, shaped predominantly by memories of the Homeland War. Circulating between two worlds - one marked by memories of war and, at times, still reverberating with ethnic tension, and the other offering the opportunities of an urban life free of those memories - the youth generally shift back and forth between the nationalist narrative of their elders and a narrative of reconciliation, produced by the possibilities that the nearby urban life offers. Tracing the complexities that mark the experiences of these youth, this paper aims to underscore the pivotal role that space plays in constructing, maintaining, and, at the same time, challenging the notion of the "imagined community" and master commemorative narratives after times of ethnic conflict.

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