Our Daily Byzantium: Medieval Heritage, Nation-building, and Politics in Serbia

Nighttime image of bronze statue of a man standing on the top of an orb


This event is part of the TORCH New Critical Approaches to the Byzantine World Network.




The scheduled event ‘Our Daily Byzantium: Medieval Heritage, Nation-building, and Politics in Serbia' brings together an international group of historians, art historians, and cultural theorists to discuss cultural heritage and nationalism in Serbia and the wider Balkans. Using the recent elevation of a colossal monument to Stefan Nemanja (a 12th century ruler of the medieval Serbian principality) in the centre of Belgrade as a discussion prompt, the panel will explore the 'national story' taking form in Serbia. By no means the exception in its use of medieval monuments and medieval characters to shape nationalist narratives, the current Serbian government has not only selectively invested in heritage conservation, but has also been actively constructing heritage monuments. There is a clear medievalism (or byzantinism) in the elevation of the church of St Sava or the new statue of Stefan Nemanja, one that seeks a direct link to an imagined medieval past to make new monuments appear ancient and remote. The panel will discuss these developments, as well as how medievalism and byzantinism developed historically and have been deployed as part of a modern political project, both in Serbia and the wider Balkans.


Dr Alexandra Vukovich (TORCH, University of Oxford), Heritage (Mis)management

Dr Milan Vukašinović (University of Uppsala), Ink, Bronze, and the Blood of the Nation 

16:15 - 17:15   POSITION PAPERS

Prof. Filip Ejdus (Faculty of Political Sciences, Belgrade), Stefan Nemanja and the Cracked Byzantine Helmet 

Dr Milena Repajić (Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade), The (not so) Subtle Messages of Monumental Stefan Nemanja: Medievalism and the Reshaping of Historical Memory in Post-Socialist Serbia

Prof. Marko Šuica (Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade), The Challenges of Teaching Medieval History in Serbia’s New History Curriculum

Prof. Aleksandar Ignjatović (Faculty of Architecture, Belgrade), Byzantium Perfected: Nation-building through Architectural Tropes in 19th- and 20th-century Serbia

Dr Višnja Kisić (Europa Nostra Serbia/UNESCO Chair MA in Cultural Policy and Management), Making Serbia Great Again: The (Un)Expected Embrace of Neoliberalism and Nationalism

Prof. Miloš Jovanović (UCLA), Historicism or the Cultural Logic of Postsocialist Capitalism in Belgrade

17:15 - 17:45   DISCUSSION


Dr Mirela Ivanova (University of Oxford)

Prof. Emir O. Filipović (University of Sarajevo)

17:45 - 18:00   Q&A

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Some short pre-readings to better understand the stakes of the debate:

Filip Ejdus, “ The Long Shadow of Byzantium over Serbia’s Entry into International Society ”, International Relations 28, 2014, 461-468.

Aleksandar Ignjatović, “ Affecting Consonance, Striving for Dominance: Scholarship and Politics at the Congresses of Byzantine Studies in the Balkans, 1924-1934 ”, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies 21/6, 2019, 696-715.

Miloš Jovanović, " Bourgeois Worlds and Urban Nightmares: The post-Ottoman Balkan City through the Lens of Milutin Uskoković's Newcomers " Journal of Urban Cultural Studies 5/2, 2018, 187-206.

Diana Mishkova, “ The Afterlife of a Commonwealth: Narratives of Byzantium in the National Historiographies of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania ” in Entangled Histories of the Balkans, Roumen Daskalov and Alexander Vaznekov (eds.), Brill, 2015, 118-274.

Marko Šuica, “ The Image of the Battle of Kosovo (1389) Today: a Historic Event, a Moral Pattern, or the Tool of Political Manipulation ”, in The Uses of the Middle Ages in Modern European States. History, Nationhood and the Search for Origins, Evans, R., Marchal, G. (eds), Basingstoke 2011, 152-174.

Maria Todorova, “Introduction”, Imagining the Balkans , Oxford, 2nd ed, 2009.

Alexandra Vukovich, “ Turkey’s Heritage (Mis)management ” in Balkan Insight: September 24, 2020; " Modern Politics, Medieval Monuments " Oxford Medieval Studies Blog: December 2020.

**Check out New Critical Approaches Network resources

Balkanism: Approaching Southeastern Europe Webinar (March, 2019)

National Byzantiums: Narratives of Empire in the Historiographies of Southeastern Europe (Lecture by Prof. Diana Mishkova) (November, 2019)

**For further reading and pedagogical resources, watch this space.


New Critical Approaches to the Byzantine World Network, TORCH Networks