Ja sam Muzej: Zemaljski Muzej and the Colonial Histories of Sarajevo

Established by the Hapsburg colonial administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1888 as a cultural epicenter for the newly acquired province to collect and proliferate anthropological, archaeological, and historical knowledge production and analysis of the population of Bosnia, Zemaljski Muzej served as an educational institution aimed at forging a post-Ottoman Bosnian national identity. Like most other colonial museums, Zemaljski also collected, classified, and showcased the natural history and mineral resources of the province. It became an important tool in inventing, structuring, and synchronizing pre-Ottoman Bosnian identity with European history. Through its own periodical, Glasnik Zemaljskog Muzeja, the museum historicized and curated a Bosnian national identity while also creating a collective memory of an imagined shared past of all peoples living in the territory of Bosnia. This presentation focuses on the coloniality of Zemaljski Muzej and looks at social movements emerging around its post-socialist and post-war reconstruction. Specifically, I look at the struggles of museum employees to keep the museum running through the Ja sam Muzej (I am the Museum) campaign, an initiative which resulted into the gradual morphing of the museum itself into a site of contention and one in which past and present political grievances were mobilized towards the engendering and articulation of new forms of dissent and solidarity.

Read more on The Politics of Postcolonial Erasure in Sarajevo by Piro Rexhepi: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369801X.2018.1487320

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