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Racial Nationalism and the Serbian Theatre: From Radovan III to DAH

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In order to explore the role of racism and theatre’s response to it in the former Yugoslavia, and more specifically, Serbia, the definition of racism is expanded to include the process of racializing nationalities. The concept of “racial nationalism,” therefore, becomes the main theoretical ground from which the chapter builds. This chapter offers a simple overview of changes that have occurred in the former Yugoslavia since the death of Tito, through the last war, and up to the present time, and how racial nationalism has been a key ingredient in most of those changes. This chapter offers examples from three different performances and plays, one from the 1970s and two from the first decade of the twenty-first century.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-43957-6_9
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  1. 1.

    Much has been written about theatre in the former Yugoslavia during the war itself. Though it is an important step in our overview, we will not dwell on it. For information on that topic, see Jane Dolečki, Senad Halilbašić, and Stefan Hulfeld, Eds., Theatre in the Context of the Yugoslav Wars (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); Silvija Jestrović, Performance, Space, Utopia: Cities of War, Cities of Exile (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); and Dennis Barnett, Ed., DAH Theatre: A Sourcebook (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016).

  2. 2.

    Italics are the author’s.

  3. 3.

    Kosovo, the section of Southern Serbia, primarily inhabited by Albanians, caught in a political no-man’s land for nearly two decades, is likely to follow.

  4. 4.

    A number of Croatians, known as ustaša, collaborated with the Nazis, even to the degree of building and maintaining their own concentration camp in Jasenovac. There they executed many Jews, certainly, but they also included the Serbs in their list of undesirables. The estimates of Serb deaths at the hands of the ustaša vary from 33,000 to over a million, depending on whether the source is Croatian or Serbian.

  5. 5.

    Portions of this section are drawn directly from the author’s dissertation.

  6. 6.

    These notions seem to almost be universally agreed upon by the members of the Serbian theatre community I have interviewed over the years, which, if it were only a critique of the Croatian and Bosnian leaders, could be seen to have nationalist leanings; however, the discussions I’ve had always start as critiques of their own government and then expand to include all governments. Ultimately, if any generalisation is to be made from these comments, it is that the theatre community in Serbia is far more anti-capitalist than nationalist.

  7. 7.

    According to Šentevska, this seemed to take one of two forms, either the blatant representation of war as a universal truth (therefore suggesting that what the audiences were enduring was somehow normal) or the complete abandonment of reality (51).

  8. 8.

    For a more detailed description of this performance, see the author’s chapter, in Vessela Warner and Diana Manole, Eds., Staging Postcommunism: Alternative Theatre in Eastern and Central Europe after 1989 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2019).

  9. 9.

    Most of these were traditionally referred to as examples of regional dialects—such as with milk: mleko, mlijeko, and mliko; but for bread, the separation was more arbitrary, with the Serbs now only using hleb and the Croats claiming its synonym, kruh.

  10. 10.

    With every new location, DAH needed to create a new version, arrange rehearsal time aboard a city bus not in use, and negotiate the commandeering of one of the city’s working buses for each performance. In/Visible City has been performed 127 times, as of 2019. Here’s a detailed list:

    • 2005—five performances in Belgrade

    • 2007/08—twenty-five performances throughout Serbia (Niš, Leskovac, Vranje, Inđija, Subotica)

    • 2009—three performances in Novi Sad

    • 2009—eight performances in Porsgrunn, Norway

    • 2009/2014—ten performances in Belgrade

    • 2011/13 as part of the EU project, twenty-four performances (Belgrade, Brighton in the UK, Skopje in Macedonia, and Ringebing in Denmark)

    • 2014—six performances in Sassari, Sardinia

    • 2015—twelve performances split between Belgrade, Inđija, and Novi Sad in Serbia

    • 2016—six performances in Porsgrunn , Norway

    • 2017/18—ten performances in Belgrade

    • 2019—eight performances in Faenza, Italy

    • 2019—four performances in Subotica and Bujanovac, in Serbia.

  11. 11.

    There are two noticeable exceptions, of course, Kosovo and Republika Srpska (an area of Bosnia, inhabited almost entirely by Serbs and supported by the Serbian government). As the Serbian government grows increasingly closer to being granted a place in the EU, contrary to anyone’s expectations following the war, Kosovo seems likely to gain its independence without much objection. The EU carrot will, in all likelihood, keep the Serbs from meddling much in Republika Srpska any more, either.


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Barnett, D. (2021). Racial Nationalism and the Serbian Theatre: From Radovan III to DAH. In: Morosetti, T., Okagbue, O. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Theatre and Race. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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