Još Hrvatska ni propala: [Still Croatia has not fallen]: examining the public face of memory in Croatia
McConnell, Taylor Andrew
This thesis examines the “public face of memory,” the visual elements of cultural memory going beyond the simple structure of a statue or a plaque to tell a story about the politics of remembrance. The structure of cultural memory is determined by ongoing struggles between social groups for power over memory itself (Müller 2009) to secure the power to endure (Hearn 2014), thus binding memory and identity over space and time. My study of the structures of power and memory in Croatia highlights the role of social responses to the past in determining local, national and supranational identities. Since the end of the Croatian War of Independence or “Homeland War” in 1995, much has been remembered and more forgotten for the sake of a united national identity. Monuments have been constructed to remind passers-by of the nation, its defenders and its victims, yet the meaning these concrete manifestations of memory impart depends on how a given audience interacts with them. This results in plural and contradictory iterations of cultural memory, contrary to the intent of those exercising power over memory to forge a unitary image of the nation. In this thesis, I address the following core research questions: • How is memory visualised in public spaces, and how does the construction of particular monuments or the commemoration of certain events reflect social behaviours toward the past? • How does Croatia’s visual culture of remembrance illustrate the relationships between power, violence, memory and identity? • How, and by whom, is memory constructed to perpetuate social divisions, based on nationality, ethnicity or religion? • Using a concept of “memory abuse” in post-conflict settings, what are the normative expectations of remembrance and what form does resistance to specific memorialisations take? • How do processes of social differentiation elevate or exclude specific historical narratives from commemorative processes? My point of departure is the construction of cultural memory, as described by Aleida Assmann (1999; 2006) and Jan Assmann (2000). I address the neglect and subsequent lack of development of Todorov’s term, “memory abuse” (1995). I find the transitions between forms of memory provide voids in which various actors exercise power over memory to mould narratives of the past to serve their vision of the present and future. These transitions and abuses are made visible through public memorials. Through my work on capturing its public display and performance, I advance a method for the documentation of memory. Through the case study of Croatia, this work highlights patterns of memorialisation that perpetuate violence and providesa template to identify memory abuse elsewhere. My key arguments are: • Memory can be “abused” when processes of memorialisation are manipulated in ways that result in violence; • Privileged groups (in this case, the ruling Croatian Democratic Union and veterans of the Homeland War) exercise power over memory to construct an exclusive narrative of national identity and belonging; this is represented in memorial spaces; • There is no singular “cultural memory,” rather cultures of memory intersect or align at key points in the mnemonic calendar, with groups seeking power over memory to ensure the persistence of their own identity; • The process of making “Croatian” identity shares similar characteristics with other national groups in that much of this identity is formed by the drawing of strict ethnic, political, religious or related boundaries through negation. In marking these boundaries, those with greater influence over the mnemonic landscape deny opportunities for some of those most affected by the violent destruction of Yugoslavia to contribute to the formation of shared cultural memory of the past at the level of the Republic of Croatia, ultimately, and a corresponding inclusive national identity.