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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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Inventing Traditions in Bosnia: The Carpet Factory in Sarajevo, 1878-1918: Diana Reynolds Cordileone


Inventing Traditions in Bosnia

The Carpet Factory in Sarajevo, 1878-1918*


Although the Dual Monarchy never possessed a colony overseas, the occupation and administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1878 to 1918 was carried on in the spirit of the »new imperialism« of the late 19th century. This was apparent in two significant ways: First, from an economic point of view, the influx of capital and industry into the Habsburg-administered territories linked them with the economic cores of the Dual Monarchy (chiefly Vienna, Budapest, and Prague).1 In addition, an Austrian »civilizing mission« accompanied these activities, shaped the outlook of the administrators who flocked to the region after 1878, and constituted the representation of Bosnia at regional and world’s fairs. While not in Africa, the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina were important symbols of the Dual Monarchy’s status as a European ›Great Power‹. As A.J.P. Taylor writes:

The two provinces were the ›white man’s burden‹ of Austria-Hungary. While other European powers sought colonies in Africa [...], the Habsburg Monarchy exported to Bosnia and Hercegovina its surplus intellectual production – administrators, road builders, archaeologists, ethnographers, […].2

Taylor’s assessment, written in 1948, has gained new attention within the scholarly community since the wars of the 1990s. While this (re-)interpretation of Austria as a colonial power before 1914 remains controversial, we can be grateful for the new impetus it has given to providing a new theoretical perspective on the...

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