CAS Seminar

Filip Milačić

The Emergence of Identity Politics Cleavage and its Effect on Social Movements
Seminar was held at the University of Rijeka on May 11, 2018.

“Numerous European societies are currently dealing with great socio-political changes that are strongly affecting their political systems and their democracies in general. I argue that this has been to a great extent caused by the emergence of the new polarization line in their political systems, which I label identity politics cleavage. Accordingly, I, firstly, explain the reasons for its emergence in the Western and Eastern Europe. Secondly, I investigate the emergence of the new protagonists and movements in national and transnational contexts as a direct response to it. I thereby focus on the anti-liberal reaction: an emphasis on the ethnic notion of the citizenship, i.e. on the ethnic and cultural homogeneity, and the “war against gender”, i.e. the advocating of “family values”.”

Filip Milacic has studied political science and history of Eastern Europe at the University of Heidelberg and obtained his PhD at the Humboldt University in Berlin (Supervisor Professor Wolfgang Merkel). He was a fellow of the Friedrich Ebert foundation. He is an author of the book Nationalstaatsbildung, Krieg und Konsolidierung der Demokratie (Nation-state building, war, and consolidation of democracy) (Springer: Wiesbaden). His work was published in many academic journals including Ethnopolitics and Southeast European and Black Sea Studies. He is currently a fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies, University of Rijeka, Croatia.

Polona Sitar

Reclaiming Menstruation: Menstrual Social Movements, Feminist-Spiritualist Menstrual Activism and The Red Tent
Seminar was held at the University of Rijeka on May 10, 2018.
  “In this paper we will try to understand global menstrual movements as new forms of social engagement, especially in which way they are challenging and changing the existing social order in the global world today. We are living in times when menstrual blood is still regarded as something embarrassing and a taboo and therefore depicted in commercials for menstrual pads in blue colour. At the same time groups of women are coming together all over the world to reclaim and to celebrate the power of their menstrual cycle in the Red Tent gatherings. They teach women that the flow of blood shall no longer be anything to be ashamed of or frowned upon. On the contrary – it is understood to be far from ordinary; as magic and sacred. This is in stark contrast to the cultural taboo around the discussion of menstruation today. The Red Tent gatherings contain features that can be viewed as kind of woman-centred feminism, yet divert from more radical or cultural feminist tenets as they do not promote a complete counter-culture based on an identity politics for women. This kind of menstrual movements promote gender equality, build community, offer a platform for sharing women’s stories, encourage female solidarity and hold a more positive view towards the female body. The power of these beliefs has a significant potential for delegitimizing the dominant system, but at the same time this might not always lead to the envisioned social change and overturning of gender hierarchies and the patriarchy.

The purpose of this paper is to discover the reasons behind more and more growing need for establishing the Red Tents all over the world. Why many women find it life changing to be heard, witnessed and supported in this way and what kind of consequences does this entail? We will try to understand the role of the Red Tent as a menstrual movement, especially in regards to abolishing the menstrual taboo. We also wish to explore if the reclaiming of sisterhood in women’s spirituality that is being propagated and explored within the Red Tent gatherings, contains political potential beyond the level of mere personal empowerment. There exists a growing curiosity from the side of secular feminism for the neglected, yet critical, and even political potential of spirituality. We will also explore the tensions between the feminist-spiritualists and the radical menstruation activists within the menstrual movements. Some feminist-spiritualists activists regard the menstrual cycle as a criterion for womanhood. However, not all women menstruate (post-menopausal women, athletes etc.) and not only women menstruate (transmen, intersexuals etc.). Inspired by the transgender and genderqueer rights movements and theoretical paradigms, such as feminist philosopher Judith Butler’s idea of gender performativity they challenge essentialist constructions of womanhood. By referring to ‘menstruators’ instead of ‘women,’ activists want to expand menstruation beyond the limitations of gender with the potential to undermine gender as a stable category in the patriarchal two-gender system.”

Polona Sitar has obtained a PhD from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana and a bachelor’s degree in Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology from the Faculty of Arts and also in Communication Sciences from the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana. She holds a title Assistant with a doctorate which she received while working at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, at the Institute of Culture and Memory Studies. Her main research interest focuses on anthropology of consumption, gender studies, memory studies and anthropology of postsocialism. In 2017 her first book titled “Not just Bread, Roses too!”: Consumption, Technological Development and Female Emancipation in Socialist Slovenia was published by a leading Slovenian scientific publishing house ZRC SAZU.

Gruia Bădescu

Sites of memory and the criminalization of authoritarian pasts: Interrogating Goli Otok in a regional and transnational frame.

“A repertoire of transitional justice practices has been mobilized in the last decades in states that experienced various incarnations of authoritarian regimes, from Latin America to Central and Eastern Europe. From trials to incriminating reports, from lustration to political declarations, these past regimes have been the object of diverse practices and discourses of criminalization. One important aspect has been the memorialization of sites of political violence, which has been mobilized by an array of actors to suit particular narratives of criminalizing past regimes. In this global context, the debates surrounding the memorialization of Goli Otok in Croatia mirror a number of processes which occurred elsewhere, while deeply connected to the specificity of memory politics in Croatia and former Yugoslavia. A political prison for mainly socialist detainees after the Tito-Stalin split, Goli Otok has been marginal to local memorialization practices, but has recently became a locus of initiatives and narratives fitting different visions and agendas. In this presentation, based on ongoing research, I scrutinize strategies and motivations of a variety of actors, the idiosyncrasies of the Yugoslav and Croatian situation, while situating it in the larger context of Central and Eastern European regional criminalization of communism and in the transnational circulation of practices between memory regions. I discuss how perspectives of place and memorialization of sites contribute to our understanding of criminalization, and how the entanglements of memories and actors function at a variety of scales, reflecting on the spatialization of multidirectional memories.”

Gruia Bădescu’s research and practice bridge the spatial and the social, with a particular interest in how interventions in urban space relate to societal and political processes of dealing with a difficult past. After his BA in Geography and European Studies from Middlebury College and his MSc in City Design and Social Science from the Cities Programme at the LSE, he worked in urban design and integrated urban development in Romania, Georgia, Armenia and Moldova. He later conducted his PhD research at the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, where he examined the relationship between the reconstruction of cities after war and the process of coming to terms with the past, with a focus on Belgrade and Sarajevo. In 2015-2016, Gruia was a Departmental Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Oxford, after which he embarked on a research project in Chile with an AHRC-Labex grant, exploring processes of memorialization of sites used for political violence during the military dictatorship and their transnational dimension, linking them with South-East Europe. Gruia joined CAS at Rijeka to continue his research around the debates on memorializing the site of Goli Otok, as well as to explore the heritage and memory dimension of urban transformations in Rijeka within the context of the European Capital of Culture.


Carlos González Villa

The Slovene Reaction to the European Migrant Crisis: Class and Ideology at the edge of Schengen

“The European response to the 2015 migrant crisis was initially featured by warm welcome expressions from the European elites. However, it quickly evolved into the enhancement of extremist positions and the ‘Fortress Europe’ pretension. The opposition to the limited relocation and resettlement plan of the European Commission – initially led by several Eastern European countries – ended up in the conclusion of an agreement with Turkey for the return of asylum-seekers to that country. Along this process, governments, mainstream political parties and new far-right organizations have shaped cultural-related and seemingly technical discursive lines for rationalizing the exclusion and rejection of migrants.

In this seminar, I will discuss the suitability of the idea of fascism for denoting current political developments in Europe through the analysis of a peripheral country. Peripherality makes reference to dynamics of economic hierarchisation, but also to specific political dynamics, including, in the Slovene case, questions like the justification of the closure of the ‘Balkan route of refugees’ on the assumption of the government’s responsibility to protect the Schengen external border and the intention of remaining in the core of an eventual multi-speed Europe. The key point of the discussion consists on the identification of specific political processes and dynamics of social change beyond traditional categorisations of political actors, which have become increasingly blurred.”

Carlos González Villa is a postdoctoral fellow at the CAS SEE (University of Rijeka) and member of the Research Group on Current History. He completed his PhD in Political Science in 2014 at the Complutense University of Madrid, with a thesis that addressed the process of Independence of Slovenia and its international implications. He has a strong research interest in the foreign policy of the United States towards Yugoslavia during the crisis of the dissolution. He has recently started a new research line on the ideological drift of Eastern European elites. He has been a visiting scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University (Washington DC) and the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana.



In her presentation, Julija Sardelić maps recent transformations in the position of Romani minorities caused by the disintegration of former Socialist Yugoslavia, the subsequent military conflicts, and the establishment of new post-Yugoslav states. She argues that Romani minorities have not been only the targets of physical violence conducted mostly by majorities and more dominant minorities, but also that their position was constructed through what post-colonial theory comprehends as the “epistemic violence” of redefining the boundaries of citizenry, where they fell on the margins. She examines the myriad of non-citizenship positions that many Romani individuals have occupied in post-Yugoslav space, from refugees and internally displaced to legally invisible persons.     The lecture also investigates the processes that irregularized the position of Romani individuals, who had previously been regular Yugoslav citizens, but now find themselves in a legal limbo in which they are neither recognized as citizens nor as de jure stateless persons (in Homi Bhabha’s terms, they are left somewhere in-between). In the second part of this presentation, Sardelić will focus on strategies of coping and other ways in which Romani individuals react to their irregularized position as citizens in order to show that robbing them of their legal status has not robbed them of their agency. She will show this by exploring the migration patterns that non-EU, post-Yugoslav Romani individuals traverse between the EU and post-Yugoslav space. Furthermore, she will highlight the everyday practices of Romani individuals, who remain immobile in the post-Yugoslav space and have no official access to healthcare, education, social welfare and labor market.

Marco Bresciani

In the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire. Postwar crisis, National Conflicts and New Fascist Order.

In the last two decades an increasing bibliography has focused on fascism in new ways, by shifting from a typological to a conceptual perspective and at the same time by developing transnational comparative approaches. However, the historical accounts of the Italian fascist movement and regime – the pioneering experiment and the first model of fascism – are still embedded within persistent national frameworks. Particularly striking in this respect is the growing gap between the common narratives of the ascent of Mussolini’s fascist movement and the new historiography on the global and European post-WWI crisis. What can we learn from the new researches on the imperial 1917-1923 crises and post-imperial legacies in the “Eurasian” area, in order the reframe the understanding of the early Italian fascism and its radical nationalism? In what sense, and to what extent, is it possible to compare the “squadrismo” with other synchronic phenomena of paramilitary violence in East Central Europe? A case in point will be provided by the post-Habsburg borderland of Venezia Giulia, in which the formation and success of the “squadrismo” took place as early as in 1920 and accordingly became a model for the whole Italian fascism.


Mariagrazia Portera

Evolutionary Aesthetics. A bridging discipline between the life and human sciences

In the last few years an increasing number of academic disciplines within the human sciences have turned to evolutionary theory to find explanations for various aspects of human behaviour (“Evolutionary Ethics”, “Evolutionary Epistemology”, “Evolutionary Linguistics”). The inquiry into the nature of aesthetics, aesthetic attitude and aesthetic judgment is no exception. Evolutionary Aesthetics (EA) is today a burgeoning sub-field of Aesthetics, the main aim of which is the “importation of aesthetics into natural sciences, and especially its integration into the heuristic of Darwin’s evolutionary theory”. Could viewing Aesthetics through the lens of Darwin’s theory of evolution contribute to the vast knowledge that philosophers have gathered about aesthetic sense, aesthetic experience and the arts? How did the aesthetic attitude originally arise in humans over the course of evolution? What would an explanatorily fruitful Evolutionary Aesthetics look like? Re-thinking Aesthetics as a bridging discipline between the Humanities and Natural Sciences, my research project is intended to analyse what it really means to say that some sort of aesthetic and artistic behaviour is constitutive of our evolved human nature.

Marcello Barison

Types of Spaces. Philosophy of Architecture.

Among the most promising conceptual articulations that constitute the contemporary philosophical debate, a prominent place is undoubtedly occupied by the intersection between philosophy and architectural theory. To date, though, there is no general philosophical approach that problematizes the architectural practice as such, developing an actual philosophy of architecture that, on a conceptual basis, discusses the fundamentals of the architectural practice and its aesthetic implications. On this basis, the research project − Types of Spaces. Philosophy of Architecture − whose general outlines I will present specifically seeks to remedy this gap. Instead of concepts, architects think in terms of lines, shapes, forms, environments, surfaces. Starting from this evidence, it is my intention to analyze ‒ while highlighting their philosophical implications ‒ some prominent ways in which contemporary architecture conceives and articulates space.