Workshop: Nostalgia

Loss and Creativity Political and Cultural Representations of the Past in South East Europe

The project "The Many Roads in Modernity" aims to study the relationship between the modern history of South-East Europe and the long imperial past of the region, and to use this approach as an alternative to the prevailing models which are based on oppositions: Europe versus the Balkans and the West versus Islam. Through this we expect to arrive at a nuanced understanding of the many roads to modernity in Europe. The focus is on the changes of identity, self-representation and affiliation in the light of the huge systemic pressure triggered by the interaction between external influences and local and regional practice from the latter part of the nineteenth century to the present day. This is studied in the project on different levels from the state to the local community, along with changes in art, literature and religious practice.

The present workshop falls within one of three focus areas in the project, "Nostalgia – Loss and Creativity. Political and Cultural Representations of the Past in South East Europe". The uses of history as a mirror are apparent in South East Europe after 1989, but the modes of expression are much more complex than the media image of popular nostalgia only.

We would like to invite discussions on how the past is used as a tool in the narratives of origin and belonging and what narratives, rhetorical dichotomies and symbols are employed in public debate, art and popular culture. There are, however, also more material aspects of the representation of history than discursive expressions: the place of history and future in cityscapes, city-planning, architecture, public art and monuments. With a broad range of cases, we hope the conference will approach the fundamental issues about who is making what definitions of borders and boundaries – in terms of geography, ethnicity, citizenship, culture and art – when claims are made about ‘culture’, ‘history, ‘belonging’ – and what arenas are available for the transmission of ideas when identity politics goes from rhetoric to implementation.