Globalizing the Holocaust: A Jewish “Useable Past” in Serbian Nationalism

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David B MacDonald


Contrary to Anthony Smith’s view that national myth-makers derive meaning primarily from a nation’s own positive “useable past”, this article argues that the globalization and universalisation of the Jewish Holocaust has created new poles of identity for ethno-nationalists, existing outside “authentic” local conceptions of history and culture. Also contrary to Smith’s view of a positive Golden Age at the root of national mythology, I argue that negative imagery can play an equally if not more significant role in some examples of nationalism. In Serbia, viewing the self through the lens of a persecuted victim became crucial during the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As a new “strategic site”, the Holocaust functioned as a template for re-interpreting “self” and “other”, while re-ordering history. Kosovar Albanians, Croatians and Bosnian Moslems were all targeted in this reappraisal of Serbian history.

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Special Issue Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

David B MacDonald, Senior Lecturer Otago University

David B. MacDonald is Senior Lecturer in the Political Studies Department at the University of Otago. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is the author of Balkan holocausts? Serbian and Croatian Propaganda and the War in Yugoslavia (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003). He has also published book chapters, book reviews, and articles in refereed journals on the former Yugoslavia.