Ludwig-Uhland-Institut für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft

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

Gefördert als DACH-Projekt vom Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschschaftlichen Forschung (FWF) und Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Projektgruppe Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte an der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (IKT), Wien / Institut für donauschwäbische Geschichte und Landeskunde (IdGL), Tübingen
Projektleitung (Tübingen) Dr. Olivia Spiridon
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Johler
Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter Branko Rankovic


2020 - 2023
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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).
This part of the project (Danube narratives in the Vojvodina) 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.  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” 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.
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.  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.
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.