Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and live streamed via YouTube.

Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a book launch of Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe (2020) and discussion with its author, Prof. Mitja Velikonja (University of Ljubljana). The discussion will be moderated by Aleksandar Bošković (co-director, East Central European Center).

This theoretically and empirically grounded book uses case studies of political graffiti in the post-socialist Balkans and Central Europe to explore the use of graffiti as a subversive political media. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as detailed interdisciplinary analyses of “patriotic”, extreme-right, soccer-fan, nostalgic, and chauvinist graffiti and street art, Velikonja looks at why and by whom graffiti is used as political media, and to/against whom is it directed? The book will be of interest to the growing body of literature focusing on (sub)cultural studies in the contemporary Balkans, transitology, visual cultural studies, art theory, anthropology, sociology and studies of radical politics.

In this book Velikonja invented a new science: “graffitology.” Reading graffiti within the Balkan and Central European urban landscape, Velikonja acts like a cultural graphologist. He is a post-communist Doctor Dolittle: reading, understanding and interpreting the language of graffiti, Velikonja provides a more relevant diagnosis of transitional societies and their maladies than most “official historians.”

– Dubravka Ugrešić, author of The Culture of Lies and The Ministry of Pain

The value of this work is both general, in offering what mounts to a theoretical “manual” of analyzing methods for approaching the visual culture of street art, and area specific. Engaging in case studies from the period of “transition,” Velikonja suggests the flexibility of graffiti, showing both their potential to be neutered through domestication and aestheticization, as well as their capacity for serious political subversion.

– Maria Todorova, professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of Imagining the Balkans

Dr. Mitja Velikonja is a Professor for Cultural Studies and head of Center for Cultural and Religious Studies at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Main areas of his research include contemporary Central-European and Balkan political ideologies, subcultures and graffiti culture, collective memory and post-socialist nostalgia. His last monographs are Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe (Routledge, 2020), Rock’n’Retro – New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Slovenian Music (Sophia, 2013), Titostalgia – A Study of Nostalgia for Josip Broz (Peace Institute, Ljubljana, 2008), Eurosis – A Critique of the New Eurocentrism (Peace Institute, Ljubljana, 2005) and Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina (TAMU Press, 2003). He is co-author of the book Celestial Yugoslavia: Interaction of Political Mythologies and Popular Culture (2012), and co-editor and co-author of books Post-Yugoslavia – New Cultural and Political Perspectives (2014) and Yugoslavia From A Historical Perspective (2017).

Event Video