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Hej, Sloveni, Let's Remember Yugoslavia!

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Organizer: Anita Lukic

Co-Organizer: Chris Chiasson

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The current strains of right-wing nationalism that are troubling the EU and NATO consensus in the US and Europe require us to reflect not only on their historical origins but on their rhetorical and medial strategies that allow them to so effectively communicate political energies to their bases. The avant-garde film-makers of Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s might initially seem like a strange place to look for ways of thinking about the communication of such energies, and yet, given the later break-up of Yugoslavia under the pressure of nationalist movements that justified themselves in terms of right-wing defenses against dangerous outsiders, it is worthwhile to ask what the filmmakers saw in their country, and how they expressed themselves. The aesthetic strategies that they used sometimes questioned Tito’s rule in terms of pure power dynamics, and at other times in terms of the ethnic conflicts that he prevented from being openly expressed. This seminar interrogates the relationship between films that critiqued Tito – or were understood to critique Tito – on the grounds of insufficient or faulty Marxism, and those that critiqued him for perceived ethnic prejudice. Of particular interest is the question: did the work pursued by the scholars in Praxis – the leading Marxist journal in Yugoslavia until it was banned in 1975 – and filmmakers like Dušan Makavejev in deconstructing myths of power become a model that could be reverse-engineered by filmmakers with ethnic concerns in order to build up new nationalist myths against current political realities? The aim of this seminar is thus twofold: first, to present the disintegration of Yugoslavia as a case study for examining the current rise of right-wing nationalism in the US and Europe; and second, to situate the Yugoslav avant-garde films and strand of Marxism in the mainstream discourse on film and politics. Topics may include but are not limited to:

How do the Yugoslav filmmakers use traditional meaning-making strategies such as montage as theorized and practiced by Eisenstein? What audience do they imagine for themselves, and did they imagine rightly?
How does the rise of documentary as a genre, and/or the incorporation of documentary footage into feature films, change the relationship of film and society? Is there a tension between "realist(ic)" content and radical form?
Do comparisons with contemporary Central and East European cinemas reveal a choice of particular aesthetic strategies and/or political ideas at the expense of others? Looking at the Czech New Wave, or the banned films of the GDR, is it clear that different Marxist practices are in play?
What theoretical positions developed around these avant-garde films, and how do they differ from other strands of Marxism?

If you have any questions, please contact either Dr. Anita Lukic (alukic@pitt.edu) or Dr. Chris Chiasson (cchiasson2@unl.edu). 
 

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