Podcast: “Skopje 2014” and the Intersection of Authenticity, Continuity, and Antiquity in the Republic of Macedonia

REES_8Antiquization refers to the policy whereby government-sponsored nationalist discourse utilizes modern narratives of ancient descent to claim a direct link between the distant past and the present. In constructing an image of a ‘Macedonian’ past upon which the modern nation-state is derived, the ongoing VMRO-DPNE ‘Skopje 2014’ project forgoes authenticity while emphasizing antiquity. It does so by selecting certain historic figures and events at the expense of others to be represented as monumental lieux de memoire. These correspond to one of four loosely defined categories: (1) the ancient 4th century BCE Macedonian kingdom of Phillip II and empire of Alexander the Great; (2) introduction and spread of Christianity from the 4th to 9th centuries ACE; (3) 19th century literary and intellectual ‘Macedonian’ renaissance; and (4) revolutionary and military accomplishments of the late 19th early 20th centuries. Under the guise of cultural heritage and shared history, ‘Skopje 2014’ endeavors to create the appearance of a unified past within a multiethnic state by imposing a linear historic narrative connected to a mythicized golden age that is European, Christian, and Slavic. These historical, architectural, and archaeological juxtapositions reflect ongoing tension in the Balkans between national identity, ethnonationalism, and the past.

Katherine (Katie) Pompeani is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on questions of social inequality, health, and subsistence practices through the analysis of Bronze Age human skeletal remains from northern Serbia. Katie has participated in archaeological research and excavations in the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and New York State. Her interest in Eastern Europe began as an undergraduate at Gettysburg College, where she participated in archaeological excavations at the Late Antique city of Golemo Gradiste in the Republic of Macedonia.  At the University of Pittsburgh, Katie’s research has been supported by several fellowships, including the Andrew W. Mellon Predissertation Fellowship, Foreign Language Acquisition Scholarship (FLAS), Hungarian Nationality Room Travel Grant, and a Social Sciences Dissertation Development Fellowship (SSDD). As a 2014-2015 FLAS recipient, Katie pursued language studies in Bosnian-Croatian Serbian, and took courses on nationalism and memory politics. Her research into state-sponsored policies of antiquization and memory politics in the Republic of Macedonia draws on a broader understanding of contemporary Eastern European ethnonationalism in the context of the use of material culture by political elites, specifically monuments, to appropriate or distort cultural memory.

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