Academic journal article Twentieth Century Literature

Geopolitical Imaginaries: Croatian Diasporic Writers in North America

Academic journal article Twentieth Century Literature

Geopolitical Imaginaries: Croatian Diasporic Writers in North America

Article excerpt

Americanists working in East Central European countries, such as Croatia, often find themselves caught in an older geopolitical imaginary that envisions this geography as the continental fault line of the Cold War. A two-volume publication, East Central Europe in Exile, recently critiqued the tendency to conflate the region with this old geopolitical divide. In the introduction, Anna Mazurkiewicz and Mieczyslaw Nurek (2013: xiii) explain: "While researching American attitudes toward Poland in terms of the complex fate of the post-World War II exiles, we found that from the American perspective the countries between Germany and Russia remained to a large extent a terra incognita, dominated by the Soviets who flagrantly violated the international wartime agreements. The American government therefore considered the area, not a particular country, to be a single problem called 'Eastern Europe.'" To address this entrenched epistemological problem, the editors call for "cooperation with scholars from other Central European countries [in addition to Poland] and the United States" (3). Still, even after more than a quarter of a century following the demise ofthat global political paradigm, American studies scholars appear reluctant to include perspectives from the former Eastern Bloc in their work. American studies practitioners in that region, it would seem, also need to contribute more actively and resoundingly to the lifting of the Cold War mental curtain. As such a scholar myself, I examine the emergence of new post-Cold War geopolitical imaginaries in the creative work of Croatian American writers Josip Novakovich and Neda Miranda Blazevic-Krietzman. Their writing engages with socialism in the former Yugoslavia and postsocialism in its successor nation Croatia, emigration from this geography, and new forms of transnationalism that bridge the United States and Croatia.

Rooted in diasporic and immigrant backgrounds, Novakovich and Blazevic-Krietzman articulate concerns that are similar to those addressed by other contemporary US writers, particularly those of immigrant descent. The two authors' emphasis aligns also with the perspectives of a growing number of Central and Eastern European writers who have begun to reimagine the United States' relationship to the Eastern Bloc during and after the Cold War. The work of these authors was enabled by the spectacular end of the Cold War, which has redirected mainstream US cultural politics and reinscribed the significance of Eastern Europe into the US imaginary. (1) After the demise of the socialist Eastern Bloc, the press, popular sources, pundits, and the US government sounded triumphalist notes that were reiterated in academic discourses trying to grapple with the new reality of a post-Cold War Europe. (2) Only a quarter of a century later, however, geopolitical changes like the Ukrainian crisis, the rise of Russia's leadership in Eurasia, and the decline of the United States' policing role in Europe signal the tenuous nature of post-Cold War arrangements between the two former superpowers and point to the reemergence of a new world order with Cold War overtones. By developing triangulated perspectives 011 the former Yugoslavia, its successor nation Croatia, and the United States, the work of Novakovich and Blazevic-Krietzman imaginatively intervenes into this moment when Cold War realities are resurging in modified forms. Having experienced life under socialism and in the capitalist United States, the two authors move beyond the normative reach of Cold War imaginarles and their current reemergence. Rooted in the communist period, their oppositional disposition expresses itself thematically and formally. Blazevic-Krietzman, who precedes Novakovich and whose career spans communism and postcommunism, employs postmodernist and feminist styles of writing, while Novakovich, ironically and nostalgically, refracts memories of his Cold War childhood and adulthood through his immigration experiences. …

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