Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić


An exhibition on the interrelations between landscapes, memory and graffiti in the post-Yugoslav space

Open from 4th December to 20th December 2020. in Export on Delta, Rijeka.

The exhibition is based on photos taken over the past decade by four researchers working in the former Yugoslavia: Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić, Vjeran Pavlaković, Eric Ušić, and Kevin Kenjar. Each researcher has analyzed the political sentiments, ascriptions, and statements that are manifested and realized in the form of graffiti and other linguistic and semiotic signs located in the physical landscape.

These images of the visual memoryscape from different parts of Croatia and other countries of the former Yugoslavia explicitly depict political conflicts and ideological premises, historical ruptures, and multiple layers of the past, as well as discourses of Othering and relations of in-group vs. out-group identification. Although the authors have approached these visual semiotics from various disciplines, they all share a common fascination with the graffitied memoryscape in this region of contested narratives and complex histories.

The exhibition is organized by the Center for Advanced Studies of Southeastern Europe, University of Rijeka, and is held as part of the program “Memory Landscapes” program flagship Times of Power, an integral part of the program Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture.

Watch the video (by Kanal Ri):

CAS SEE Seminars with Guests – Nenad Stefanov

On Thursday, December 10th, we hosted CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Nenad Stefanov, presented by our fellow Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić. The seminar is entitled „The “magic” of maps. About the Visualization of Ethnization of Society”.

In the perception of the wars over ethnically homogeneous territories in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, “cultural boundaries” are often considered a plausible cause of conflict even today. However, such borders were first established discursively and in particular visually in maps or other graphic representations. The developments in the (post)Yugoslavian region since the 1990s can show how intensively cartographic representations were used and utilized to support essentialist argumentations to legitimize territorial claims. The question thus arises as to what social function such visualizations of ethnicity have in the concrete spatial context and how they ultimately shape the actions of a wide variety of different societal actors.

Nenad Stefanov a historian and scientific coordinator at the Interdisciplinary Center for Border Research at “Crossing Borders” at the Humboldt University of Berlin. One research focus in this context is the social production of borders. It was precisely authoritarian and populist movements in Yugoslavia in the 1980s that forced new forms of demarcation based on ethnically homogenous communities. The subsequent materialization of such ethnic demarcation, its dominance, is the result of equally conflictual social processes in which authoritarian patterns of action become hegemonic.
A further research area is currently the study of lines of communication in the long term in the Central Balkans. For example, the line of communication that connected Central Europe and Asia Minor in various epochs and which became known as the Via Militaris, or Orta Kol in the Ottoman period, gained prominence with the Orient Express.
His last published book is about the “intention of borders” in Balkans: Die Erfindung der Grenzen auf dem Balkan. Von einer spätosmanischen Region zu nationalstaatlichen Peripherien: Pirot und Caribrod 1856–1989, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017.


Watch the CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Nenad Stefanov:

 Roswitha Kersten Pejanić

Linguistic Landscape Studies in the Post-Conflict Society: Opportunities and Challenges

Persisting bottom-up discourses of former open conflicts between the different national groups of former Yugoslavia can be perceived in the landscape of the former ‘Serbian Krajina’ in today’s Croatia. Next to legacies of the violent war in the physical landscape (such as ruins, danger signs of land mines, monuments) it is the linguistic landscape of the former war zones that portrays glaring social (ethnical and religious) borders in this previously diverse and heterogeneous area. Instead of a ‘corporate sense’ of Yugoslavia, manifested in the maxim of ‘bratstvo i jedinstvo’, there are still obvious trends of enduring (ethno)nationalism and rehabilitated traditionalist and populist discourses. This seminar will provide central results of an ongoing research project on the linguistic landscape in two rural regions and former war sites in peripheral Croatia, which, next to the physical border between Croatia and Bosnia and Croatia and Serbia, point to the existing inner borders between ethnic groups in the areas researched. The examination of the wealth of signs of ethnic and nationalist tension in the public space (as shown by written messages on house walls, road signs and other public surface) will be at the center of the presentation. The influence of the 1990s’ war and the status of this area as a ‘post-conflict site’ is of particular analytic importance for the research presented. By means of an ethnographic perspective, linguistic signs in public space, their political messages, the corresponding ideological origin and their temporality will be discussed.

Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić completed her PhD thesis about the interrelation of linguistic norms and gender perceptions in Croatian in 2016 at the Center of transdisciplinary gender studies, Humboldt University. She holds a magister degree in History and Serbian/Croatian from Humboldt University and a master degree in EU Studies from the Centre International de Formation Européenne. From 2010-2018 she also worked as a lecturer at Humboldt-University and from 2016 until 208 she was a trainer and tutor for EU application writing at EUFRAK-EuroConsults in Berlin.

Since June 2018 Roswitha is a research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies – South Eastern Europe in Rijeka, Croatia, where for the next two years she will be working on her post-doc project “Linguistic Landscapes at the margins: Performativity of ethnic belonging and memory politics in Croatian post-conflict border regions”. She receives funding for this project from the German Research Foundation (DFG).

The seminar was held at the University of Rijeka on January 29, 2019.