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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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Cultural Politics, Nation Building and Literary Imagery: Towards a Post-colonial Reading of the Literature(s) of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1878-1918: Stijn Vervaet


Cultural Politics, Nation Building and Literary Imagery

Towards a Post-colonial Reading of the Literature(s) of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1878-1918


Post-colonial studies connected with cultural and literary theories1 that see literature and culture as a phenomenon intertwining with power,2 can also provide an interesting approach for the study of literary and other intercultural contacts in the Balkans. In this article on Bosnian literary and cultural life between 1878-1918, I will attempt to show why post-colonial studies can be inspiring for the study of cultural relations between Austria-Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially when doing research about the interweaving of power, culture/literature and the construction of national or other collective identities. In addition, I consider it to be an approach that should be developed in accordance with the (historical) context which constantly urges us to make corrections to post-colonial claims concerning the (study of the) Balkans.

Many historians consider that the Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia was very similar to colonial rule in British India. Some of them describe the Bosnian politics of the Dual Monarchy without hesitation as »Habsburg colonialism«.3 Some evidence for such a contention on a symbolic level can be found in Austrian ethnological and travel literature on Bosnia, and probably even in belles letters, in which a discourse of power, of »civilizing the wild« and an exotic picture of the Other can be revealed.4 As apparently some of these authors tend to essentialize Bosnia as the...

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