Yugosplaining the World  

I’ve been doing Disorder of Things things for a decade and “Yugosplaining the World” is my favourite thing to date. It is a symposium of sorts, one with many beginnings, most of which have everything to do with war, dispossession, displacement, and exile. A panel and dinner at the Millennium Conference in London, which took place right between the Brexit and Trump votes, was significant, as was a series of “smrt fašizmu” tweets and e-mails Aida and Jelena sent out around the time of the Peter Handke Nobel Prize fiasco. I came up with the working title, which inevitably (got) stuck. Adi Džumhur’s generous offer to host us at the UNC’s Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies came next, but Covid-19 messed this plan up. Huge thanks go to Milomir Kovačević Strašni for giving us permission to use some of his legendary photographs (from the 2018 exhibition ‘Il était une fois la Yougoslavie’ in Paris).

Thirty people are involved with eighteen posts in total. Below you will find a short intro to the series and your full July 2020 #Yugosplaining schedule/table of contents.

Milomir Kovačević Strašni photo: Ušće, Beograd, 1988.


Introduction to Yugosplaining the World

July is a difficult month for many ex-Yugoslavs, and this year in particular. We are approaching the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica and the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the Bosnian war. Both events, we now know, were just mid-points in a conflict that would continue until 1999, when the NATO bombing of Serbia and Kosovo ended a particularly brutal repression of the Kosovar population, whose protests – in turn – had initiated the Yugoslav unravelling in 1981.

At the time, the Yugoslav wars and their extreme violence were viewed by the West as idiosyncratic, isolated events, unrelated to broader process of political and economic transformation in the world – the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of communism. Indeed, they were just outright inconvenient for the world that celebrated the end of history. Yugoslavia, once deeply entangled with both the East and the West and even more so with the Global South, was all of a sudden isolated from history – including its own.



Yet now, as the West (and the allegedly democratized East) unravel under the weight of their own unresolved histories – and not just of the successive lost wars, financial crises or the pandemics – it seems that the ghosts of the 1990s are back to haunt us. Nationalism, ethnic and racial violence, populism, militias, lies and conspiracies can no longer be viewed as “the Balkan” phenomena. Instead, “the Balkans” now appears as the vanguard of a common catastrophe (Subotić, Hemon).

This series of essays, which we have ironically grouped under the title of Yugosplaining, brings together writers, artist, scholars from the former Yugoslavia, most of whom work (or have studied) in the West. We are all multilingual, we speak “macaronic” languages (Buturović) and we have learned how to speak back. As Una di Gallo, Žana KozomoraSaša Rajšić, Bojana Videkanić, Tamara Vukov, and Sonja Zlatanova put it – “Yugosplaining in our work is meant to counter forms of westernsplaining,” to which we have long been subjected. The erasures were collective – denials of anything good in our past, analytical refusals to engage with complexities of Yugoslav history(ies), forgetting of the Yugoslav global role, simultaneous exclusions and inclusions of Yugoslavia from the rest of the post-communist world (as convenient for particular meta-narratives of liberal triumph, NATO expansion, EU integration etc.). But we have experienced them intimately in our ailing bodies (Majstorović) as “good” and “bad” migrants (Yugoslawomen+ Collective), lonely figures at urban parties (Žabić), COVID patients (Šolić), silenced conference speakers (Hromadžić) – in short, as affect aliens (Hodžić) in every context.

The symposium invites us to reflect on the structural inequalities that Yugoslavia produces even through its afterlives. While we were aiming for an ever-more “representative” sample of the old country – more Albanians, Jews, Roma, Slovenians, Macedonians, and “ostali”, fewer BCSM-speakers, for one – , we ended up reproducing a rather familiar power structure. Yes, our social (media) ties and various situational factors determined the long list of contributors, and yes, many on that long list were unable to participate in this stage of the project. But the exclusions, silences, and absences that editorial work produces are never haphazard. Yugosplaining the World, as Elena Stavrevska reminded us vi email, must simultaneously be an attempt to “explain Yugoslavia(s) to ourselves.” In a similar fashion Vjosa Musliu urged us to “talk about class, race, socio-economic disparities and how they are all constitutive of our understanding of what Yugoslavia was and the memory of it today…how all of these have produced particular legitimate voices of who should talk about Yugoslavia or who should be Yugosplaining.” She likewise urged us to pause over “the inherent coloniality of (former/post) Yugo as a category.” In Vjosa’s own words: “The term (former/post Yugoslavia) renders itself to inherent problems. As this initiative showed us, inside former Yugoslavia, the term is bound to alienate, silence and limit subjects and subjectivities. At an international level, including our academic circles, it renders us as scholars and our multiple other identities into a memory of a federation.” These are all enormously important issues, and we will accordingly address them in the conclusion, which is scheduled on the last day of the symposium.

It goes without saying that these tensions should not diminish the value of the publication. No single collection of articles written by authors with different backgrounds and disparate views on a common problem can ever hope to provide all relevant information, analysis, and politics. Tensions can also be productive; indeed, our hope that this symposium will be a departure point for continued Yugosplaining. So, think of this as a beginning of beginnings.

Aida Hozić, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida.

Jelena Subotić, Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University.

Srđan Vučetić, Associate Professor of International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.


Schedule/Table of Contents

July 3, 2020 Jana Bacevic, “On (not) knowing the future: prediction, legitimation, and the Yugoslav crisis”

July 4, 2020 Jelena Subotić, “Moral accountability and implicated subjects from Yugoslavia to Trump”

July 5, 2020 Siniša Malešević, “Nationalist conspiracies”

July 6, 2020 Azra Hromadžić, “Closings and Openings: On (Im)Possibility of Translation”

July 7, 2020 Aida Hozić, “Looking outside in and inside out: the kill-joy speaks”

July 8, 2020 Una di Gallo, Žana Kozomora, Saša Rajšić, Bojana Videkanić, Tamara Vukov, and Sonja Zlatanova, “Thinking and doing in-between”

July 9, 2020 Edin Hajdarpašić, “Antifascism is not a monument”

July 10, 2020 Aleksandar Hemon, “Speaking Trumpese”

July 11, 2020 No posts for today: it is the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Watch the 1-minute video by “Fabrika” and check out the “Denial and Triumphalism: Origins, Impact and Prevention” roundtable proceedings @SrebrenicaMC. Edin Hajdarpašić is contributing there as well.


July 12, 2020 Amila Buturović, “The Power of Speaking Macaronic”

July 13 2020 Mitja Velikonja, “The Balkans: Tragic Avant-Garde of Europe”

July 14, 2020 Mila Dragojević, “Immigration, Identities, and the State of Exception”

July 15, 2020 Saida Hodžić, “On The Armoire”

July 16, 2020 Danijela Majstorović, “On autonomies and anatomies of post-2015 migration to and from post-Yugoslavia”

July 17, 2020 Mirna Šolić, “The Pandemic and Images from the Bygone World”

July 18, 2020 Snežana Žabić, “A Three-Card Throw”

July 19, 2020 Yugoslawomen+ Collective (Dženeta Karabegović, Slađana Lazić, Vjosa Musliu, Julija Sardelić, Elena B. Stavrevska, Jelena Obradović Wochnik), “The tale of ‘good’ migrants and ‘dangerous’ refugees”

July 20, 2020 Tamara Pavasović Trošt and Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, “Misusing history: Lessons learned from studying history textbooks”

July 21, 2020 Larisa Kurtović & Srđan Vučetić, “The geopolitical unmoored: from exemplarity to deprovincialization”

July 22, 2020 Aida Hozić, Jelena Subotić, & Srđan Vučetić, “What have we learned”


12 thoughts on “Yugosplaining the World  

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