Max Planck Research Group “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities”

Interdisciplinarni projekt koji se bavi nasljeđem i pamćenjem carstva u gradovima Beču, Budimpešti, Trstu, Zagrebu, Sarajevu, Beogradu, Solunu i Istanbulu poziva na prijavu za konferenciju “Striking Back? On Imperial Fantasies and Fantasies of Empire” i Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.



The empires that once defined the political geography of Europe are no more. One cannot meet a Prussian, Romanov, Habsburg, or Ottoman today; these dusty categories of affiliation have ceded to myriad national communities. Nor do British, French, Dutch, Spanish, or Portuguese identities articulate the same horizons as they did at the height of their respective colonial empires. Yet it would be mistaken to assume that Europe’s bygone empires have become mere relics of history. Imperial pasts continue to inspire nostalgia, identification, pride, anxiety, skepticism, and disdain in the present. The afterlives of empires as objects of memory exceed historical knowledge, precisely because these afterlives shape and recast the present and the future.


Our research group, “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities,” is dedicated to the multiple legacies and memories of empire in the cities of southeast and central Europe. Eight cities orient our pursuit: Vienna, Istanbul, Budapest, Sarajevo, Thessaloniki, Trieste, Zagreb, and Belgrade. These cities are loosely grouped together in pairs meant to suggest a variety of comparisons and contrasts.


Vienna and Istanbul were the capitals and principal political, economic, and cultural centers of the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. Post-imperial nostalgia suffuses both Vienna and Istanbul, albeit in different forms and according to divergent political logics.


Budapest and Sarajevo were ruled by both the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, although they occupied much different positions within the geographies of the respective empires. Overlapping impe- rial pasts continue to animate public life and political debate in both cities.


Trieste and Thessaloniki were crucial port cities for much of Habsburg and Ottoman history, respectively, but are currently located within national contexts that broadly eschew these histories. Yet in these cities, too, reappraisal of the imperial past has opened new political and cultural horizons that exceed and destabilize the hermetic presuppositions of nation-states.



Finally, Zagreb and Belgrade—former Habsburg and Ottoman provincial seats, respectively—offer parallel lessons in how both imperial and socialist pasts are stylized, accentuated, and erased in in contemporary cultures of urban memory.