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Invitation to Defense of Majda Turkić

Event Label
Organisational Units
Art Theory and Cultural Studies

The Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna kindly invites you to the defense of Majda Turkić's dissertation project Rethinking the recent urbanization trend in Bosnia and Herzegovina: postwar reconstruction and the pursuit of lost identity.

The Examination Panel is made up of: Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Anette Baldauf (chair), Univ.-Prof. Mag. Christian Kravagna (first supervisor), and Prof. Dr. Gabu Heindl (external appraiser, University of Kassel).


Contemporary urban trends in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) during the ongoing 24-year post-war period of architectural reconstruction are primarily reflected by the aftermath of the country’s specific past. Semi-colonial legacy of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires and socialistic past as one of six Yugoslavian republics affected urbanistic development which is dictated more by mainstream political relations than comprehensive cultural and architectural policy. The recent civil war ended with the involvement of the international community and the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which legalized and supported a unique pluralistic model that fostered nationalism in the Balkans. Architectural reconstruction and urban development have been characterized by the lawless, unrestrained, uncontrolled, and accelerated construction of residential areas; the dereliction of socialist-era cultural monuments and institutions; the ethno-simulacrum of various religious objects. Some architects argue that there is no visible trend in post-1995 architectural development and that its main feature is disorganized and anarchic (re-)construction.

The thesis is an attempt to answer questions related to post-war reconstruction and urbanization processes, the leading political forces and interests behind recent urban planning, and how this relates to the specificity of the country’s postcolonial history. The main goals are to illuminate the contemporary urbanization and reconstruction concepts that characterize the post-war period. To do this, it needs to deconstruct the region’s history and modern geographies, which have in the recent past characterized it as a “weak” region, outside “real” Europe, and prone to being controlled and possessed. The thesis places B&H in the unorthodox context of colonial and postcolonial theory, and their implications for race and imperialistic regimes. The first hypothesis postulates the association of “Habsburg nostalgia” with the discourse of self-victimization, the centuries-long feeling of Balkan inferiority and otherness. These two phenomena may be the stalling forces that draw the people of B&H into a vicious circle of stagnation. The thesis further aims to elucidate the ongoing political processes that project an image of B&H as an equal part of Europe while in reality, its perpetual European integration process can mislead the casual observer of the country and its history. The thesis challenges this question, along with the relationships between B&H’s tumultuous past and idiosyncratic contemporaneity. It asks why the turmoil is happening, and if the past is reflected in recent post-war events.

Methodologies borrowed from several types of qualitative research are used to construct and test the hypotheses, primarily ethnography and phenomenology, seeking to understand the interaction between architects, sociologists, and philosophers with the culture of urbanization and architecture of the place in which they live. Grounded theory was used to find patterns in the categories on which to test the hypothesis, and create a narrative and a substantive theory. Belonging to a family of critical studies, the thesis aims to analyze power relations, and critique and challenge them.

Its major contribution is its re-questioning of B&H identity in relation to architectural and urban development, especially privatization; international investments; the growing number of religious objects; or re-purposing of former public spaces into private and/or commercial ones. It adds to the literature a discussion on Balkan postcolonialism and contributes to original qualitative research through interviews with the main actors in the country’s urban development. In this way, the research contributes to ethnographic and anthropological analyses of former Yugoslavia and targets the evolution of rising nationalism and religious and ethnic self-identification.

Short biography

Majda Turkic studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria in the class of prof. Marina Grzinic, Post-conceptual Art. In her work, she uses the specific methodology and theoretical approach that reflects specific artists perspective and questioning of the interplay between historical and anthropological context. She is a Ph.D. candidate with the thesis topic “Re-thinking the recent urbanization trends in Bosnia and Herzegovina: postwar reconstruction and the pursuit of the lost identity” at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna in the class of Professor Christian Kravagna. Due to her close research relationship with the architecture, the very architectural objects remain the common artistic focus in her photographs. Majda exhibits solo and together with other artists in Sarajevo, Berlin, Vienna, Israel, and the U.S.

Please join us for the defense presentation in room M13a.

We are looking forward to welcoming you.