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Socialist Secularism

Religion, Modernity, and Muslim Women's Emancipation in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, 1945–1991

Pamela Ballinger and Kristen Ghodsee

This article uses the examples of socialist Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to propose some new directions for rethinking scholarly understandings of “secularism” and the ways in which socialist secularizing projects were intricately intertwined with questions of gender equality. Current scholarly debates on the genealogy of secularism root its origins in the Catholic/Protestant West, and systematically ignore cases from the former communist world. This article takes two cases of Balkan states to explore the theoretical contours of what we call “socialist secularism.” Although Bulgaria and Yugoslavia’s experiences of socialist secularism differed in the degree of their coerciveness, this article examines the similarities in the conceptualization of the secularizing imperative and the rhetoric used to justify it, specifically the rhetoric of communist modernism and women’s liberation from religious backwardness.

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Paul Gordiejew

In examining the Jews of the former state of socialist Yugoslavia as a test case, this paper asks a familiar question: can Jews maintain their identity and survive as a distinctive group without the beliefs and practices of the Judaic religion? In their case, the change in the scope of secularization was abrupt and dramatic because of the devastation of the Holocaust and a contemporaneous radical political restructuring of society that denigrated religion. Although there were precedents of secular ideologies and movements, such as Zionism, and new inclinations to participate in broader movements, such as Communism, which influenced Jewish belief and behavior before the Second World War, the abruptness of the secularization and the postwar Jewish leadership's enthusiastic and nearly complete embrace of it put into action what can be called an experiment in secular Jewishness. It is this 'experiment' that is the focus of this paper.

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Chiara Bonfiglioli

The Cold War era has been mainly represented as a period of gender conservatism in feminist literature, and communist women in Eastern and Western Europe have been often described as manipulated or deprived of agency due to their lack of autonomy from Communist Party politics. On the basis of archival sources and autobiographies, this article explores the Cold War activities of a women's organization founded in Yugoslavia during the Second World War: the Antifašistički Front Žena (Antifascist Women's Front, or AFŽ). The article describes the activities of the AFŽ from its creation until its dissolution in 1953, focusing on its campaigns for women's political, economic, and social rights in the postwar and early Cold War period. By engaging with the pioneering work of Zagreb feminist historian Lydia Sklevicky and with new archival sources, the article aims to shed light on women's political and social agency in Cold War times.

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Women, Resistance and the Politics of Daily Life in Hitler's Europe

The Case of Yugoslavia in a Comparative Perspective

Vesna Drapac

This article uses a comparative transnational model for a study of women’s resistance in Yugoslavia, with particular reference to the Independent State of Croatia. It challenges the dominant paradigm of active resistance in Hitler’s Europe as a largely masculine and military activity. Historians have long recognised the contribution of women to resistance in Yugoslavia; however, an ideologised and politically driven interpretation of wartime behaviour, combined with an overemphasis on active resistance, has militated against a nuanced approach towards the study of dissent in its diverse manifestations. This article proposes that a woman-centred focus on the social, everyday aspects of resistance is illuminating on definitions of and the preconditions necessary for successful resistance as well as on the subject of collaboration and conformism in the Second World War.

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Militarization via Education

A 1945 Primer from Socialist Macedonia

Darko Leitner-Stojanov

This article examines the textual and visual content of the first postwar primer in socialist Yugoslav Macedonia in order to understand the messages that it contains relating to techniques of militarization. After outlining the historical context in which this primer was developed, with reference to teachers’ memories and archival sources, the article analyzes the role of teaching materials in connection with the experience of the Second World War and the politics of the new communist state. This content analysis identifies six militaristic messages and values communicated to the pupils, who are addressed as future soldiers.

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Ruptured pasts and captured futures

Life narratives in postwar Mostar

Monika Palmberger

In situations in which an entire population is affected by war and great political-economic transformations, as was the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina, generational differences exist regarding the extent to which people experience these events as disruptions to their lives. Even in a nationally divided city like Mostar after the 1992-1995 war, generational experiences-of past and present times as well as of future prospects (or the lack thereof)-are crucial for the way people rethink the past and (re)position themselves in the present. In the case of the generation of the "Last Yugoslavs", I argue that the disruption of their life course and the resulting loss of future prospects prevent people from narrating the local past and their lives in a meaningful and coherent way.

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Jeremy F. Walton and Piro Rexhepi

Over recent decades, Islamic institutions and Muslim communities in the successor nation-states of former Yugoslavia have taken shape against a variegated political and historical topography. In this article, we examine the discourses and politics surrounding Islamic institutions in four post-Yugoslav nation-states: Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Our analysis moves in two directions. On the one hand, we illuminate the historical legacies and institutional ties that unite Muslims across these four contexts. As we argue, this institutional history continues to mandate a singular, hegemonic model of Sunni-Hanafi Islam that pre-emptively delegitimizes Muslim communities outside of its orbit. On the other hand, we also attend to the contrasting national politics of Islam in each of our four contexts, ranging from Islamophobic anxiety and suspicion to multiculturalism, from a minority politics of differentiation to hegemonic images of ethno-national religiosity.

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Chiara Bonfiglioli

Biljana Kašić, Jelena Petrović, Sandra Prlenda, and Svetlana Slapšak, eds., Feminist Critical Interventions: Thinking Heritage, Decolonising, Crossings, Zagreb: Red Athena University Press and Centre for Women’s Studies, 2013, 197 pp., €16 (hardback), ISBN 978-9-536-95544-2.

Christine M. Hassenstab and Sabrina P. Ramet, eds., Gender (In)equality and Gender Politics in Southeastern Europe: A Question of Justice, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 380 pp., $115 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-137-46238-1.

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Modern Women in a Modern State

Public Discourse in Interwar Yugoslavia on the Status of Women in Turkey (1923–1939)

Anđelko Vlašić

After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Turkish women gained numerous political, social, and educational rights. Their rapidly improving status was a frequent topic in the public discourse of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (SHS)/Yugoslavia during the interwar years. One can find numerous comments in Yugoslav newspapers and journal articles, monographs, diaries, travel accounts, and other texts of the period on the contrast between the status of women in the “traditional,” “conservative,” theocratic Ottoman Empire and the status of women in the “modern,” “liberal,” secular Republic of Turkey. The Yugoslav media compared the status of Turkish women with the position of women’s rights in Yugoslavia. Through the analysis of interwar Yugoslav public discourse on the status of women in contemporary Turkey, this article aims to reveal the Yugoslav public’s perception of women’s issues through the prism of Turkey as Europe’s “Other” and their self-perception.

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Gendering the Cold War in the Region

An Email Conversation between Malgorzata (Gosia) Fidelis, Renata Jambrešić Kirin, Jill Massino, and Libora Oates-Indruchova

Malgorzata Fidelis, Renata Jambrešic´ Kirin, Jill Massino and Libora Oates-Indruchova

Although historians have established that gender was a crucial element of the Cold War competition between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, there is not much historical literature yet exploring that aspect of the Cold War. Even less literature specifically addresses the role of gender and/in the Cold War in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe (CESEE), the region that Aspasia covers. Since Aspasia’s first issue (2007), each volume has had a Forum, though in different formats. This Forum, based on an email exchange conducted over several months between four regional experts, addresses questions about gender and/in the history and historiography of the Cold War in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Of these countries, the first three were Soviet dominated, but Yugoslavia, after the Tito–Stalin split in 1948, developed its own branch of state socialism.