Ludwig-Uhland-Institut für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Johler

Reading the Danube. (Trans)national narratives in the 20th and 21st centuries

DACH-Projekt: Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF) und Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
(2020-2023)
Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte an der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (IKT), Wien
Institut für donauschwäbische Geschichte und Landeskunde (IdGL), Tübingen

The aim of the project is the scientific analysis of the identity-forming narratives about the Danube in the 20th and 21st centuries. The subject is the investigation of image and text media in which the Danube takes shape for certain social communities and becomes a surface for identification: literary texts, photographs and films. Two research institutions work closely together: the Austrian Academy of Sciences/Institute of Cultural Sciences and Theatre History (Vienna) and the Institute for Danube Swabian History and Regional Studies (Tübingen). In addition, the project cooperates with renowned research centres in other Danube cities (Bratislava, Budapest, Novi Sad, Sofia and Bucharest).

Project management:

Univ. Doz. Dr. Christoph Leitgeb (IKT Wien)
Dr. habil. Edit Király (IKT Wien)
Dr. Anton Holzer (IKT Wien)

Dr. Olivia Spiridon (IdGL Tübingen)
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Johler (IdGL Tübingen)

Cooperation Partner (Cotutelle): Prof. Ivana Živančević-Sekeruš (Novi Sad)

Danube narratives in the Vojvodina (Dissertation)

This part of the project comprises a case study carried out as an in-depth supplement to the media-specific longitudinal sections of the Danube narratives. The Vojvodina is an exemplary case as a region with a turbulent history (Gavrilović 2012, 2014), a region that has been repeatedly recast between the twin poles of the continuity of the river and the discontinuity of supra-regional, national and minority identities (e.g. Tomić 2016, Lazar cf. 2003).  Up to the present day, the former borderland between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires has remained a region of fault lines and crises, a characteristic that is reflected in the “contested pasts” (Kuljić 2010) of its ethnic communities and in overlapping narratives relating to the Danube. The Vojvodina can serve as a model for studying many of the questions touched on above: The metaphor of the Danube as a ribbon, for example, was emphasised in the identity narratives of the Danube Swabians and radicalised during the period of National Socialism (Das große Aufgebot 1941). Moreover, the river as a border, and its appropriation as a scene of fighting and crime are also clearly illustrated in the Vojvodina (Végel: Neoplanta 2013, Weidenheim: Pannonische Novelle 1991).
Clearly, the example of the Vojvodina in general provides a particularly vivid illustration of the metaphorical charging of the course of the river and river crossings throughout history. Channel, confluence and bridge metaphors as well as the image of the collapsing bridge are to be found in homeland narratives that address Vojvodina’s relationship with the wider surrounding area (Ladik: Vészkijárat 2000).  They reflect strategies of inclusion and exclusion with respect to interethnic boundaries and outside borders.
This imagery becomes exceedingly ambivalent when narratives relate to river crossings by people forced to flee, e.g. the Serbs fleeing to Habsburg territory during the Turkish Wars, the Danube Swabians fleeing Yugoslavia at the end of the Second World War. With the erection of fences on the Hungarian side of the border and the (re)opening of migrant facilities e.g. in Padinska Skela – converted from a prison used during the communist regime for Romanian refugees – Vojvodina’s identity as a borderland on the threshold of the EU has been re-established in a new form. Various historic topoi are being integrated into the recent refugee narrative, and the dispute on the European level is mirrored in the Vojvodina in multiple ways, with the specific consequences for the region being negotiated even in fictional literature (Lazarević: Švapski paket 2016).
In summary, this transmedia sub-project will serve to investigate concepts of identity and space in this defined area from 1945 to the present day. As a case study, it prepares the ground for both the transmedial and the transnational reflections of the second project stage.

Sources Vojvodina case study
The investigation is based on literary texts, essays, periodicals (Dnevnik, Zrenjanin, Subotičke novine, Híd etc.), photo albums, documentary and non-documentary films from the region. Text material can be found in the Matica Srpska Library in Novi Sad and the National Library of Serbia in Belgrade. Materials concerning Yugoslav and Serbian films will be provided by the case study on film, while Hungarian language materials are collected with the support of the text media case study. Sources from outside the Vojvodina, such as memory and homeland books published in Germany and Austria, are to be found in the Eastern Europe Department of the Bavarian State Library and the library and archive of the IdGL Tübingen. Additional outside sources include periodicals (e.g. Donautal-Magazin) and the websites of Danube-Swabian hometown associations.

Prof. Reinhard Johler and Prof. Ivana Živančević-Sekeruš in Novi Sad will jointly supervise the doctoral student conducting the Vojvodina case study in the form of a cotutelle procedure,Olivia Spiridon, the project team member at the Tübingen research facility, can combine two of her previous research interests in her project section on Danube film narratives, namely Romanian Studies - German minorities research and the question of border constructions along the Danube. The postgraduate research post at the institute (appointment pending) will be awarded to a researcher with a cultural studies or historical background, experience in the field of research into Southeast Europe, the relevant language skills and an interest in the Vojvodina case study. The position will be located in Tübingen and the costs related to work space etc. covered by the IdGL.