Ansatte på Saxo-Instituttet – Københavns Universitet

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Zlatko Jovanovic

Zlatko Jovanovic


Primære forskningsområder

History of Late Socialist Yugoslavia

Aktuel forskning

“Yugoslav, Bosnian, Muslim, Sarajevan? Competing Identities in Sarajevo 1949-1992”


Methodologically a micro-historical study, my current research project uses the Bosnian capital Sarajevo as an empirical platform for the discussion concerning modernity and modernisation in Socialist Yugoslavia. At the centre of the analysis are the city itself and different representations of it.

Given that Socialist Yugoslavia’s ideology and institutions were shaped by a twofold need to maintain a balance between centralist and decentralist forces within the country and to maintain ideological differentiation from both Cold War blocs, one of my primary interests is to examine the way in which the idea of modernisation was related to the ideas concerning: (1) national identity, and (2) the relationship between East and West. Sarajevo’s image as “Yugoslavia on smaller scale” makes the city very interesting subject in this context.

Emphasising the great variation in the speed and spread of modernisation processes in the socialist federated state, the project pays special attention to the struggles to define the modern in Late Socialist Yugoslavia on different levels – from political debates to everyday life. In this respect, I want firstly to examine what modernity meant in Socialist Yugoslavia, particularly in the way it shaped the relationship between authoritarian state and society. Second, I am in particular interested in the construction and deconstructions of the specific Yugoslav modernisation narrative. Sarajevo’s particularity in the context of this narrative is that its cultural production was always viewed from a centre-periphery perspective, according to which the city’s cultural products were perceived as unsophisticated, backward, and even primitive in comparison to those in other major centres in Yugoslavia. Thus, despite the city being one of the leading cultural centres in the country already from the 1960s, this perception would only change – and even then only partly – with the city’s position as the host city for the Winter Olympic Games in 1984, and the symbol of the modern Yugoslavia.

Seeking ultimately to explain political, social, economic and cultural aspects of this change – most importantly how it affected identity-formations in the city – the end result of the project will be a monograph entitled “Sarajevo, My Dearest City, We Made It, to Fix You for the Olympics”: Competing Definitions of Modernity in Late Socialist Yugoslavia. The significance of this title lies in the socio-historical context it was borrowed from – the lyrics of a 1980s rock song by the leading proponent of a unique Sarajevan popular-cultural phenomenon of New Primitivism. This originally subcultural movement that emerged in the early 1980s grew by the mid-decade into a central paradigm of Bosnian culture, stressing Sarajevo’s cultural peculiarity and turning thereby the theretofore dominant modernisation narrative upside-down.  

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