Visual Images and Politics in the Post-Yugoslav World

Tuesday, March 8, 2016
12:00 pm
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 IAB, 420 West 118th St.)
Please join the Njegos Endowment for Serbian Language and Culture at Columbia University's East Central European Center, the CU Central and Eastern European Club (CUCEE), and the Harriman Institute for a talk with Mitja Velikonja, Professor of Cultural Studies and the Chair of the Center for Cultural and Religious Studies at School of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Aleksandar Bošković, Lecturer in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian in the Slavic Department at Columbia University.
Mitja Velikonja will present his paper entitled "Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia: Graffiti about Yugoslavia in the Post-Yugoslav Urbanscape." Twenty-five years after the bloody collapse of socialist Yugoslavia, urban walls in its successor states are still full of pro- and anti-Yugoslav graffiti and street art. The main questions of the presentation—based on my longitudinal research and on semiological (quantitative and qualitative) methodological approaches—are how, where and why Yugoslavia, its socialism, its anti-fascist roots and its leaders are (de)constructed, praised and condemned in this specific urban subculture. On the level of denotation, graffiti and street art can be divided in different types of pro-Yugoslav and anti-Yugoslav, often directly confronted in graffiti-battles. On the level of connotation, three major forms of ideological antagonism appear: socialist federalism vs. nationalism, Tito vs. his opponents, and antifascism vs. fascism. Before presenting final findings of research, expressive strategies of such urban production are analysed, like provocation and criticism, affirmation and continuity, territory marking, constant antagonisation, and semiotic guerrilla.
Mitja Velikonja is a Professor of Cultural Studies and the Chair of the Center for Cultural and Religious Studies at School of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Main areas of his research include Central-European and Balkan political ideologies, subcultures and urban cultures, collective memory, and post-socialist nostalgia. His last monographs in English are Rock'n'Retro - New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Slovenian Music (Ljubljana; 2013), Titostalgia – A Study of Nostalgia or Josip Broz (Ljubljana; 2008), Eurosis – A Critique of the New Eurocentrism (Ljubljana; 2005), and Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina (TAMU Press; 2003). He is the co-author of the book in Serbian, titled Celestial Yugoslavia: Interaction of Political Mythologies and Popular Culture (Belgrade; 2012) and the co-editor of the book Post-Yugoslavia - New Cultural and Political Perspectives (Palgrave; 2014). For his achievements he received four national and one international award. He was a full-time visiting professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow (2002 and 2003), at Columbia University in New York (2009 and 2014), at University of Rijeka (2015), Fulbright visiting researcher at Rosemont College in Philadelphia (2004/2005), and a research fellow at The Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies in Wassenaar (2012).
Aleksandar Bošković will present on "Yugonostalgia and Retro-garde: Lexicon of Yu Mythology and NSK." The content of the Lexicon of Yu Mythology presents popular Yugoslav culture as a purely symbolic reality and as a support for a particular collective memory. By evoking visual and textual reflections on the meaning of the past for the present, the Lexicon contains the “transgressive force of ruins.” The nostalgic and ironic modes of writing in the Lexicon retain “a suggestive, unstable semantic potential,” thus defining the ruin of Yugoslav socialism through creative appropriation. As a “site of memory” that is inherent to modernity itself, the Lexicon has generated a place of reference for the future cultural archaelogy of everyday life in Yugoslav socialism. This talk will examine one such archaeological dig—The Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), the retro-avant-garde of the sub-culture in the last decade of Yugoslavia. Comparing the participants in the contemporary yugonostalgic discourses with those of the NSK subcultural rituals from the 1980s, the talk will theoreticize the effects of their ambivalent relations to and recuperations of the cultural memory of Yugoslavia and the historical avant-garde, respectively. 
Aleksandar Bošković is a Lecturer in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian in the Slavic Department at Columbia University. He holds an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Belgrade and a Ph.D in Slavic studies from the University of Michigan. Aleksandar was previously employed at the Institute for Literature and Art in Belgrade, Serbia, where he published his book The Poetic Humor in Vasko Popa’s Oeuvre (2008). His research interests are Russian, Central and East European avant-garde literature and visual culture, Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav literature and cinema, literary theory, and BCS language pedagogy. His current research focuses on the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary exploration of photopoetry and bioscopic books within Slavic avant-gardes.