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


Edited By 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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Besetzungen: A Post/Colonial Reading of Austro-Hungarian and German Cultural Narratives on Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1878-1918: Clemens Ruthner



A Post/Colonial Reading of Austro-Hungarian and German Cultural Narratives on Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1878-1918*


[...] Son of man,You cannot say, or guess, for you know onlyA heap of broken images, […](T.S. Eliot: The Waste Land)1

The ›Orient‹ and ›the Balkans‹ are very peculiar spaces for various phantasmatic projections in literature and culture. This has been amply pointed out, for instance with regard to the famous ›oriental‹ journeys of Napoleon, Chateaubriand, Nerval, Flaubert and Du Camp.2 The ›Orient‹ seems to exist in a historical plural only;3 as a ›Western‹ literary and cultural construction that parallels European hegemony and particularly colonialism, it is made up of a multitude of stock motifs, i.e. trans-national, controversial and even contradictory, but ultimately also interchangeable stereotypes. A structurally similar setup – not the same, but quite – can be claimed when it comes to the imaginary geographies of ›the Balkans‹ which have been the traditional in-between zone of ›European‹ contact with the ›oriental‹ Ottoman Empire since early modern times.4

This raises the question: what did Austria-Hungary seek/find in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the fin-de-siècle, given that in these territories the concepts of ›the Orient‹ and ›the Balkans‹ are obviously intertwined? As an initial hypothesis, it can be claimed that with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire (the former arch-enemy of the Habsburg state in its self-proclaimed mission as protector of Christianity in the region),5 Bosnia-Herzegovina became the political and cultural...

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