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Austria-Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Western Balkans, 1878–1918


Clemens Ruthner, Diana Reynolds Cordileone, Ursula Reber and Raymond Detrez

What can post/colonial studies and their approaches contribute to our understanding of the Austro-Hungarian (k.u.k.) occupation and administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1878 to 1914?
This anthology presents some possible answers to this research question which goes back to a workshop held at the University of Antwerp in 2005. Later more researchers were invited from the small international circle of established and emerging experts to contribute to this new perspective on the imperial intermezzo of Bosnia-Herzegovina (which is usually overshadowed by the two World Wars and the Yugoslav Succession Wars of the 1990s). Alternative readings of both Austrian and Bosnian history, literature, and culture are meant to serve as a third way, as it were, bypassing the discursive fallacies of Habsburg nostalgia and nationalist self-victimization.
As a result, the essays of this interdisciplinary volume (collected and available in print for the first time) focus on the impact the Austro-Hungarian presence has had on Bosnia-Herzegovina and vice versa. They consider both the contemporary imperialist setting as well as the expansionist desire of the Habsburg Monarchy directed southward. Exploring the double meaning of the German title WechselWirkungen, the authors consider the consequences of occupation, colonization and annexation as a paradigm shift affecting both sides: not only intervention and interaction at a political, economic, social, cultural, and religious level, but also imposed hegemony along with cultural transfer and hybridity. Finally, the imperial gaze at the Balkan region outside of the Habsburg territories is included in the form of three exemplary case studies on Albania and Montenegro.
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Introduction: Bosnia-Herzegovin: post/colonial?: Clemens Ruthner



Bosnia-Herzegovina: post/colonial?*


[…] die Worte Kolonie und Übersee hörte man an wieetwas noch gänzlich Unerprobtes und Fernes.(Robert Musil: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften)1

Bosnia-Herzegovina has been the epitome of a European periphery2 for a long time. This condition has persisted until the present, from Bosnia’s days as a rebellious borderland of the Ottoman Empire (to which it belonged de facto until 1878 and formally until 1908) to its subsequent incorporations into the territorial holdings of the k.u.k. Monarchy Austria-Hungary (1878-1918), the first and second Yugoslavia (1918-1941, 1945-1992), the fascist Croatian Ustasha state (1941-45), and beyond, to the era of independence and civil war (1992-95), and its existence as a fragile European protectorate after the Peace Treaty of Dayton in 1995.3 But the country has not only figured as the economic and cultural periphery for different political centres (Istanbul, Vienna/Budapest, Belgrade/Zagreb), it has also come to occupy a specific symbolic position within the hegemonic discourses of the ›West‹: to this day, Bosnia’s strong affiliation with Orientalisms and Balkanisms of all kinds has led to its stigmatization as a form of ›the Other within Europe‹,4 a status that has been further entrenched since the devastating Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

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