Forging public memory Historical narratives in Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav schoolbooks

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapportBidrag til bog/antologiForskningfagfællebedømt

Cultural memories, understood as shared narratives and representations of a common past, are core elements of group identities and essential in the social fabric of modern societies. The role of history education in creating cultural memory is fundamental. History education and history textbooks are generally considered vital tools for states to ingrain a certain collective memory and to socialise future citizens. Indeed, we may understand history education and schoolbooks as essential elements of cultural memory in the public sphere, or what we could think of as “public memory”.
History textbooks are institutionalized mediations of historical narratives that connect past, present and future into concepts of continuity. History teaching mobilizes experiences of the past to make the present understandable and create possible “horizons of expectation” for the future, thus offering students of history a certain selective understanding of the past with a concurring worldview. This inevitably influences students’ view on their own group, other groups in society and neighbouring states.
In the former Yugoslav states, history teaching has been ascribed essential functions in mobilizing for war and legitimizing new nationalism. Yet before that, history textbooks were used to educate students into patriotic Yugoslav citizens during the interwar Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and in socialist Yugoslavia schools strived to train dedicated pioneers.
Through analyses of a wide selection of schoolbooks, this paper explores how the forging of public memory in future citizens was attempted in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which collapsed in 1991, and in the successor states of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, where the Yugoslav narratives were often transformed into rather different exclusively ethnonational narratives. I argue that these new narratives partly served to legitimize the construction of national states out of the formerly federal republics and to explain the warfare that accompanied the destruction of the Yugoslav state, but also to establish a certain view of the new state and the expectations of its citizens. Thus, the rewriting of the historical narratives could be seen as a movement from a transnational – and Yugoslav – history education towards exclusivist and polarized national narratives.
Yet, since the end of the Yugoslav wars, international and local organizations have attempted to create dialogues between history teachers across the ex-Yugoslav republics with the aim to counteract these polarizing narratives and make teachers aware of the different versions of history. Thus, a transnational discussion, aimed at using history education as a tool for transnational understanding and peacebuilding, is somehow countering the forging of national public memories. Based on reports from some of these initiatives, the paper will attempt to chart the new more transnational directions of history education in the region
TitelSchool Historical Knowledge in Europa – Savoirs scolaires et historiens en Europe. Transnational circulations and debates - Circulations et débats transnationaux,
RedaktørerEwa Tartakowsky
Antal sider23
UdgivelsesstedArcidosso, Italy
ISBN (Trykt)9788855246668
StatusUdgivet - 2023

ID: 387024063