Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
Ivana Lučića 3
In my thesis I will be exploring the relation between nationalist discourses and memory in contemporary Croatian society, through analysis of three national hero figures: a political leader, a glorified warrior, and a musical celebrity, to whom hero status is attributed based on their involvement in the war of independence in 1990s and founding of the state.
The research will be focused mostly on recent rise of right-wing populism and nationalist tendencies which intensified a split in society that occured in postsocialist transition, manifested through continuously competing and contested narratives of its recent past – breakup with Yugoslavia, gaining independence, and founding of the state through a traumatic war conflict in 1990s.
National hero figures, having the status of national symbols as embodiments of characteristics and values perceived as the essence of the national identity, are often at the center of the debates on the memory of the war, notions of nationhood and conceptions of national identity, due to which their appearance and uses increased within political discourse, popular culture and specific cultural practices.
Following the notion of hero figures as prisms through which heterogenous intepretations of the ideas and values of the society can be grasped (Škrbić Alempijević&Belaj 2014), the aim of the thesis is to analyze the ways in which contemporary evocations and usages of those figures reveal broader issues in Croatian society: ideological polarization, contestations of memory of the war and founding of the state, negotiating the concepts of the nation and national identity, rising nationalist tendencies and challenges of establishing a stable democracy in postsocialist context, all of which constitute cultural and political landscapes that shape everyday life.
The thesis will be adressing following questions: how are hero figures produced, what meanings are attributed to them and how do they change in relation to wider political, social and cultural changes? In what contexts/situations are they evoked and what are the effects they produce? How are hero figures used in contemporary context? What are the cultural practices related to hero figures and what socio-cultural needs and desires are attempted to be satisfied by those practices?
In order to analyze the production of hero figures as symbols semiotic approach will be employed, focusing on the cultural meanings and understandings attributed to them. Hero figure evocations in different contexts – political rhetoric, media, popular culture – will be approached by critical discourse analysis, focusing on different interpretations and how they shape social relations and cultural practices. In order to grasp hero figures remaking and usages „bottom up“, etnographic research will be conducted focusing on diverse individual narratives and specific practices.
Interpretation and contextualization of the hero phenomenon will be within theoretical frameworks of political anthropology, postsocialist studies and memory studies.
Supervisor: Ass. Prof. Sanja Potkonjak