Northeast Modern Language Association 

50 Anniversary Convention

Washington, DC

March 21-24, 2019

Migrant Works in German-Language Literature:

Loss of Heimat and (Yugo)nostalgia


Yugoslavia’s ties with German-speaking countries are deeply rooted in history. From the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through to the Gastarbeiter program of the 1960s and 1970s, various historical political connections account for why a great number of Yugoslavs live in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland today. In more recent times, the geographical proximity of German-speaking countries made these an accessible safe haven for refugees fleeing Yugoslavia during the wars of the 1990s. To this day, the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001) remain the most brutal and violent conflict in post-1945 Europe. Following the cessation of violence in the Balkans, many of these refugees returned home, while others chose to stay in their new, adoptive homeland. A number of  immigrants and refugees from the former Yugoslavia, including Saša Stanišić, Marica Bodrožić, Dragica Rajčić, Melinda Nadj Abonji, Danijela Pilic, Danko Rabrenović, Nicol Ljubić and Dubravka Ugrešić, have become well-established writers within the German-speaking literary scene, forming part of what Brigid Haines has termed the “Eastern Turn” in contemporary German literature. Many of them turned to literature to write about their traumatic experiences, a sense of loss, place and identity in the wake of the Yugoslav wars and the breaking up of their former homeland. In fact, the size of the Yugoslav communities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland – which together are home to the majority of the Yugoslav diaspora – means that German has become one of the primary languages used to write about the Yugoslav Wars. This panel explores the ways in which ex-Yugoslav migrant and exile authors writing in German deal with the aftermath of the war in their literary texts. More precisely, how these engagements with past and memory can be understood in the context of what scholars such as Zala Volcic and Cynthia Simmons refer to as (Yugo)nostalgia, the sentimental response to the often traumatic loss of a bygone Yugoslav Heimat.


The following questions may serve as starting points for contributions to this panel:

·       Which genres do authors from the former Yugoslavia select to discuss the wars and why?

·       What role do issues of age, ethnicity, gender and religion play in these texts?

·       Which theoretical approaches to memory, trauma and nostalgia are most productive in teasing out these complex intersections of identity in texts by authors of the Yugoslavian “Eastern Turn”?

·       What role does the country of migration play in these texts? Do the migrants and exiles manage to arrive and settle in the new country successfully in the texts, and what is the aftermath of the Ankunft in the new country?

·       Is nostalgia/(Yugo)nostalgia present in the texts? And if so, how is it represented? Do writers reject or otherwise respond to the discourse of (Yugo)nostalgia in their work?

·       What is the function of the German and native language in these texts? When and is the native language used and to what purpose?

·       How do writers from Yugoslavia respond to the German discourse of Heimat in their work? How can Heimat theory and German discourses of home and homeland assist us in understanding the issues at stake when dealing with (Yugo)nostalgia in the aftermath of the Yugoslav Wars? How does the East-German phenomenon of Ostalgie render useful insights in the study of this corpus of texts?


Please send abstracts of 250 words to Aleksandra Starčević ([log in to unmask]) and Michel Mallet ([log in to unmask]) by September 30, 2018.


Aleksandra Starčević

Ph.D. Candidate

Georgetown University 
Department of German
Intercultural Center 468
Washington, DC 20057

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