Narrating Victimhood

Narrating Victimhood: Gender, Religion and the Making of Place in Post-War Croatia

Michaela Schäuble
Series: Space and Place
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Narrating Victimhood
    Book Description:

    Mythologies and narratives of victimization pervade contemporary Croatia, set against the backdrop of militarized notions of masculinity and the political mobilization of religion and nationhood. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in rural Dalmatia in the Croatian-Bosnian border region, this book provides a unique account of the politics of ambiguous Europeanness from the perspective of those living at Europe's margins. Examining phenomena such as Marian apparitions, a historic knights tournament, the symbolic re-signification of a massacre site, and the desolate social situation of Croatian war veterans,Narrating Victimhoodtraces the complex mechanisms of political radicalization in a post-war scenario. This book provides a new perspective for understanding the ongoing processes of transformation in Southeastern Europe and the Balkans.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-261-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Preface Ways of Looking and Knowing
    (pp. x-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. Notes on the Text
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    Whether labelled asbure baruta, or the ‘powder keg’ of Europe, whether evoked as Europe’s unconscious (Žižek 1999) or as a geological fracture zone (Winchester 1999), whether depicted as a toxin threatening the health of Europe (Glenny 1999: xxiv) or as Europe’s cesspool (Bjelić 2006), whether unmasked as a site of nested Orientalism (Bakić-Hayden 1995), or whether located between globalisation and fragmentation (Bjelić and Savić 2005a) or treated simply as metaphor (ibid.), the Balkans have a long tradition of being maintained as the constitutive opposite and outside of ‘Western modernity’. It has become increasingly clear, however, that the region threatens...

  8. Chapter 1 (In-)Subordination at the Margins of Europe
    (pp. 20-74)

    On 5 August 2007, then Croatian president Stjepan Mesić visited the small town of Sinj in the Dalmatian hinterland to attend the local folkloristic knights’ tournament ‘Sinjska Alka’. A game of skill performed in historical costumes, the Sinjska Alka is held annually in commemoration of a victorious battle against the Ottoman Turks of 1715. The tournament, in which each contestant rides his horse down the racetrack at full gallop and tries to hit the Alka ring with his spear, is widely perceived as a celebration of ‘local resistance to intruders’ and a re-enactment of courageous opposition to foreign domination.


  9. Chapter 2 Marian Devotion in Times of War
    (pp. 75-132)

    ‘Sinj – that is Alka and the Gospa (Virgin Mary)’. This widely used maxim elucidates that beside the Alka tournament, the most revered institution in Sinj is the ‘Svetište Čudotvorne Gospe Sinjske’, the Sanctuary of Our Miraculous Lady of Sinj. As a pilgrimage site well known throughout the region, Sinj annually attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

    In this chapter, I emphasise the significance of religion and Marian devotion for the (re-) construction of local, regional and national identity in post-socialist and post-war Croatia. Starting from a delineation of the historical context and genesis of the Marian sanctuary in Sinj, I...

  10. Chapter 3 Re-Visions of History through Landscape
    (pp. 133-179)

    A Croat, a Bosniak and two Serbs arrive on the moon. The Croat points to the lunar mountains and says, ‘Those are like the Dalmatian Hills. This must be Croat land!’ The Bosniak argues that the cratered surface resembles the shell-scarred roads of Sarajevo, ‘so it must be Bosnian’. One of the Serbs pulls out a gun, shoots the other Serb and says, ‘A Serb has died here. This is Serb land’.¹

    This morbid and admittedly rather biased joke that is widely recounted in post-war Croatia illustrates the importance of landscape and particularly of burial grounds and graves to notions...

  11. Chapter 4 Of War Heroes, Martyrs and Invalids
    (pp. 180-261)

    Present-day gender relations in Croatia – especially the strengthening of patriarchal gender constructs and traditional role allocation – prove an additional battleground for different ways of remembering, understanding and restructuring the past in the light of a ruptured present. Individual as well as communal identity construction in the peripheries is constituted by the mutual embeddedness of gender, ethnicity and (marginal) political status. Ana Lowenhaupt Tsing has pointed out that state politics shape ethnic and regional identity, and are, in turn, informed by them. ‘State and ethnic politics are gendered just as gender difference is created through state and ethnic discourse. Yet each...

  12. Chapter 5 Mobilising Local Reserves
    (pp. 262-310)

    Skimming my chapter outlines, and reading subheadings such asViolent and Violated Identities , Celebrating Victory and Victimhood , Violence and Self-VictimisationandReclaiming Innocence, a colleague smilingly pointed out that the composition of my chapters resembled the outline of a Catholic sermon and mockingly commented on my successful internalisation of Croatian religious-nationalist rhetoric. Reflecting on this ironic comment, I noticed that a large number of the sermons I heard during my fieldwork did indeed have a similar narrative structure, and for the most part contained rhetorical elements related to the God-willed unity of all Croats and the predestined independence...

  13. Concluding Remarks ‘Good Patriots’ or ‘Rebellious Citizens’?
    (pp. 311-314)

    To get a break from fieldwork I once visited my friend Tatjana and her mother Rajka in Bjelovar, a small town in Western Slavonia. We were sitting together in the evening watching the Croatian version of the popular television show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ When the 8,000 kunas (approx. 1,100 euros) question ‘Where was the first pharmacy in Europe located?’ came up, I cried out ‘Trogir!’ even before the four option answers were given. Tatjana and Rajka looked at each other and burst out laughing.

    ‘They really did a good job down in Sinj teaching you all the...

  14. Glossary and Abbreviations
    (pp. 315-324)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-352)
  16. Index
    (pp. 353-374)