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Space, place, and nationalism: Constituting, transmitting, and contesting national identity in the urban landscape of Zagreb, Croatia from 1850 to 1940

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Title: Space, place, and nationalism: Constituting, transmitting, and contesting national identity in the urban landscape of Zagreb, Croatia from 1850 to 1940
Author(s): Whiting, Robert L.
Director of Research: Wilson, David
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Wilson, David
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Hitchins, Keith; Flint, Colin; Leff, Carol S.
Department / Program: Geography
Discipline: Geography
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Spatiality Place National Identity Nationalism Croatia Zagreb Geography Human Geography Urban Geography Urban Space Urban Landscape Austro-Hungarian Empire Yugoslavia
Abstract: This study analyzes how urban space in Zagreb, Croatia was used to establish and then contest the trajectory of the Croatia national project between 1850 and 1940. To accomplish this, the study focuses on the extent to which the Croatian national project and the urban project of Zagreb were intertwined in a deliberate effort to establish the city as the “Croatian Metropolis.” The study uses spatiality (the trialectic relationship between real space, imagined space, and lived space) to analyze how the national and urban elites deliberately created a city landscape which they believed would embed the idea of Croatia as a modern, urban, middleclass, Central European nation in the daily lives of the population. The study also analyzes how the population of the city re-imagined the urban space of the city over time, often in ways that the elites had not intended or anticipated. This study focuses on the interaction of three distinctly identifiable scales, the national, the local, and the micro across the first ninety years of Zagreb’s existence as a unified urban space. The first two scales are essentially defined by the choice of the study site, with Croatia being the national and Zagreb the local. The micro scale site in this study is Ban Josip Jelačić square, which is the main square for the city of Zagreb and was renamed in honor of the Ban (Governor) who led Croatia both politically and militarily through the 1848 crisis in the Hapsburg Empire. A key element of the Ban Jelačić Square micro space is the Ban Jelačić Monument, erected in 1866, which clearly placed a key contemporary Croatian national here at the center of the city of Zagreb and transformed the city’s main square into a monumental space. At the core of the study is an examination of how these three nominally distinct scales, the national (Croatia), the local (the urban environment of Zagreb), and the micro (Ban Jelačić Square) are inter-related with each other. Croatian leaders saw the transformation of the city of the old medieval communities of Zagreb into the “Croatian Metropolis,” a modern city that would be at the center of all aspects of Croatian political, economic, and cultural life, as a key to the overall success of their national project. A central part of this plan was the transformation of significant spaces within Zagreb into national spaces, with a special focus on the city’s main square. The result was a deliberate effort to place Zagreb at the heart of Croatia, while simultaneously placing Croatia at the heart of Zagreb. Yet, in the process of placing Croatia at the heart of Zagreb, the national elite created a key venue that would become a primary mechanism for contesting and redefining the goals of the national project in the 1930s. This dissertation uses a somewhat unique approach to examine what is essentially a dialectic process within the Croatian national project between 1850 and 1940. Rather than addressing each scale separately, the study investigates the interactions between the scales chronologically, but not in a direct, historical format. The four empirical chapters of the dissertation are broken into distinct time frames, but two of the chapters cover the same time frame. The empirical section of the dissertation begins by showing the development of the initial “thesis” of the Croatian national project as a modernizing, urbanizing project from 1850 until 1895 and how the urban project of Zagreb was a central part of this effort. The second empirical chapter then covers the emergence and solidification of an “antithesis” to the existing Croatian national project, Croatian Peasantism, an ideology which sought to defend the idea of Croatia by slowing modernization to limit the economic and social dislocation it was causing in the countryside, between 1895 and 1935. The third empirical chapter covers the same time period, 1895 to 1935, but returns the focus to the efforts of the modernizing elements of the Croatian national project to continue to implement their plans. The final empirical chapter covers the contestation between the modernizers and the Peasantists between 1935 and 1940, which results in a new urban preservationist consensus among the urban national elite in Croatia. A key part of this contestation was preventing the construction of a modern skyscraper on Ban Jelačić square, thus “preserving” the square as an historic location. This new urban preservationism, a fusion of the older urban focus of the Croatian national project with Peasantist preservationism, becomes the new “thesis” of the Croatian national project after 1940. To prove this argument, the study uses a qualitative analysis of a wide range of primary and secondary sources to demonstrate how leaders of the Croatian national project both deliberately and inadvertently mobilized the urban space of Zagreb, and Ban Jelačić Square to advance their goals as well as how the general population in Zagreb responded, and often reinterpreted these efforts. Spatiality provides a key lens for this project, as it provides a framework. By breaking all three scales involved in this study into spaces which are imagined, physically transformed, lived in, and through that process re-imagined, spatiality also provides a structure which illustrates how interconnected the national, local, and micro scales in the study are. Ban Jelačić Square is a prime example of how spatiality helps to analyze the interaction between scales, as it is at once, a key micro space in the daily life of the city, a key local space in the urban structure of Zagreb, linking various parts of the city together, and a key national space through its function as a monument space as well. Because this project seeks to integrate and show connections between three separate scales, a wide range of sources are engaged. Key primary sources include newspaper and magazine articles and editorials, which seek to communicate specific interpretations and relationships between the idea of Croatia as a national community and urban space in Zagreb. Official documents as well provide insight into the goals of various actors, especially urban plans and the narratives used to support changes in real space within the city of Zagreb. Secondary sources are also very useful to this project, especially national and local history texts from the late 19th and early 20th century, as they clearly elaborate the historic narrative of the time and can indicate issues seen as important to the national project. More recent histories are useful as well because they often will include indications to spatial relationships that the authors may want to use to enhance their arguments, or may use without being fully aware of the spatial significance. It is important to note that many of these sources focus, in theory, on a single scale. Secondary sources of this type can also be very valuable because they illustrate connections between scales when an author working at one scale begins to address issues of another scale, often without realizing they have drifted out of their primary focus. This project shines new light on many important issues. This project illustrates the spatial trialectic across time, by showing how imagined space, real space, and lived space interact and transform each other in a continual process. In the field of Croatian history, this project illuminates an interconnectedness between the urban history of Zagreb and the broader history of Croatia that has not previously been investigated. In the field of Yugoslav history, this project indicates that the internal debate within the Croatian national project in the late 1930s may have had a much greater impact on the relationship between Croatia and the socialist Yugoslav project than previously understood. In the field of the study of nationalism, this project shows that urban projects and urban development can be critical components of national projects. This project also helps illuminate how national projects redefine themselves over time to adapt to the new circumstances they confront and illustrates that the antithesis of any given national movement may not be cosmopolitanism or “anti-nationalism,” but rather an alternative form of the same national identity.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/24401
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Robert L. Whiting
Date Available in IDEALS: 2013-05-26
Date Deposited: 2011-05
 

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