Douglas Carlton McKnight: Persecution and Resistance: The Carinthian Slovenes and Memories of the Second World War

Dissertation, Georgetown University, 2020 (Abstract)


Diese Arbeit wurde mit dem Herbert-Steiner-Preis 2021 ausgezeichnet.



In this dissertation, I trace the slow evolution and diversification of Carinthian Slovene vernacular memory practices, showing that the trauma of forced assimilation, persecution, deportation, and resistance during the Second World War—and the vilification that came after it—has produced a hyper-local memory in Austria that challenges Carinthia's official memory of the Second World War. I examine these various vernacular practices through a cross-media analysis of museums, memorials, civic education initiatives, and literature created by Carinthian Slovene artists and memory activists. Relying on John Bodnar's framework of memory, I juxtapose these various media of memory, showing the advantages and limitations of each, and by doing so, reveal the numerous strategies a historically discriminated against minority has at its disposal for influencing the official memory culture of the state in which it resides.


Offering an interdisciplinary approach to collective memory, I explore what I call the southern Carinthia "landscape of remembrance" to expose how the remembrance of the past is constructed and contested through monuments, memorials, and museums. Through the use of qualitative expert interviews, I also show how various activist organizations activate this landscape as a pedagogical resource for the present. On a literary level, I not only advocate for an inclusion of Carinthian Slovene literature into conceptualizations of Austrian literature, but I also apply various theories of memory to my reading of Maja Haderlap's 2011 novel, Engel des Vergessens, to illustrate how a contemporary author represents complex mnemonic practices in narrative form.


For this study, I rely on a wide-range of methods from various fields, including literary and cultural studies, history, and critical geography. By concentrating on southern Carinthia, I add a new, regional perspective to studies of postwar Austrian collective memory, and show that self-reflective attempts to reckon with Austrian complicity with Nazism at the national level have not superseded ethnocentric ones at the provincial level in Carinthia. My results reveal that the dynamics of collective memory in southern Carinthia continue to remain locally anchored, and thus question Memory Studies' recent emphasis of transnational memory frameworks, particularly for European memories of the Second World War.


Douglas Carlton McKnigh, Graz



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