PEASANT ARTISTS AND COMMUNIST PRAXIS IN INTERWAR YUGOSLAVIA


Presentation at ASEEES 2019
Article for Age of Revolutions
Article under review for the Slavic and East European Journal


Foregrounding the close relationship between peasants and colonized people, I propose that the progressive disavowal of peasant ways of knowing and being from the early-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries constitutes a significantly undertheorized dimension of coloniality in the region of Southeastern Europe. With a focus on interwar Croatia, this article sheds light on how we can begin to reevaluate the epistemological, political, and cultural significance of the village, which has largely been captured by folklore, dismissed as ‘superstition,’ or appropriated by nationalists. Anchored in discourses on the relationship between culture and decolonization authored by scholars and activists in Native studies and African postcolonial studies, the present article contributes a case study example of an agrarian communist program of cultural decolonization and anti-fascist national liberation from the interwar period in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The analysis begins by sketching out the anti-imperial agenda for decolonizing Yugoslav culture that was spearheaded by Miroslav Krleža and Krsto Hegedušić between the two World Wars. This is followed by a reconstruction of the art collective Zemlja’s (the Earth Group) collaborative program with peasant artists from rural Croatia and their significance to the grassroots communist national liberation movement. Finally, the article discusses how communist peasant aesthetics were situated as an authentic anti-imperial national culture during Yugoslav socialism in conversation with international decolonial discourses on national culture and revolution.





Backwards scholar, utilitarian artist.   
Los Angeles / Belgrade