Accepted Paper:

Post-socialist transformation and monument-building in a Slovakian town  


Michaela Ferencová (Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Comenius University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the post-socialist politics of commemoration performed in the ethnically mixed town of Nové Zámky in Slovakia. I examine the impact of democratisation on the practice of monument-building.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I aim to look into the mechanisms of post-socialist monument-building policy in the town of Nové Zámky in South-Western Slovakia. In the book The Political Lives of Dead Bodies Katherine Verdery (1999) argues that political changes induce manipulations with statues and corpses of famous persons. She pointed to the intensity of these processes after the collapse of communism in East-Central Europe and explained them through the acute need to replace the symbols of the old regime.

Within the recent 20 years, the inhabitants of the territory of present-day Slovakia experienced double political change: the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, and the split-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. After 1989 the public spaces of Nové Zámky has been exposed to extensive monument-manipulations. Nonetheless, the still ongoing monument-building obscures the connection of this practice with the political changes occurring nearly two decades ago. The prevalence of installations over removals does not fit the simple logic of the strong wish to eliminate unwanted symbols either. In my paper, I explain the post-socialist monument-building policy in Nové Zámky as a result of two driving forces: (1) the efforts of the local political authorities to compensate the lost historical appearance of the city - enabled by the democratisation of decision-making procedures; (2) the struggles over classificatory schemes, induced by the re-emergence of inter-ethnic competition between Slovak and Hungarian inhabitants.

Panel W080
Diverse and shared publics: politics of entitlement and commemoration