After the archive : framing cultural memory in ex-Yugoslav collections
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Upon Yugoslavia’s breakup into five successor states in the 1990s, its national archives also divided according to the new national borders. This re-ordering of institutional history took most dramatic form in the systematic destruction of the archival records held by Bosnia-Herzegovina; incendiary shells destroyed the holdings of its National Library in 1992. In contrast to the national divisions that “balkanized” and obliterated the archives, ex-Yugoslav compilations draw works from and about the region together. This dissertation analyzes the collections that formed as “alternative archives” in response to Yugoslavia’s dissolution and tracks how individual works within these collections are translated and reframed as they circulate internationally. It argues that distinct texts gathered together into the unit of the collection can effectively convey the complexity and contradiction of ex-Yugoslav cultural politics. Whereas compilations of texts of texts identified as representing various nationalities approximate international alliance through unities such as “internationals women’s solidarity,” “European unification” and “Yugoslav reunification,” close reading of the texts juxtaposed within the collections can also complicate the progressive solidarity that frames them. Ex-Yugoslav collections of print and film, and the situated interpretations they engender, provide a rich archive of responses to the post-Cold-War transition toward globalization and Europeanization in the midst of ethnic and religious extremism. In this project, I describe the “collection” as the product of gathering individual texts together, arranging them, and framing them with a unifying narrative. Literary anthologies, library archives, museum exhibits and film programs at festivals thus all function as collections, or archives, of cultural materials formed during and after Yugoslavia’s dissolution. I argue that the works in these collections reflect forms of organization and alliance that disrupt the common sense of existing geopolitical alignment and put pressure on normative desires for a post-Yugoslav future based on European attachments.