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Serbian Dreambook

National Imaginary in the Time of Miloševi

by (author) Marko Živković

Indiana University Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2011
Eastern, Media Studies, Cultural
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2011
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2011
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The central role that the regime of Slobodan Milošević played in the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia is well known, but Marko Živković explores another side of this time period: the stories people in Serbia were telling themselves (and others) about themselves. Živković traces the recurring themes, scripts, and narratives that permeated public discourse in Milošević's Serbia, as Serbs described themselves as Gypsies or Jews, violent highlanders or peaceful lowlanders, and invoked their own mythologized defeat at the Battle of Kosovo. The author investigates national narratives, the use of tradition for political purposes, and local idioms, paying special attention to the often bizarre and outlandish tropes people employed to make sense of their social reality. He suggests that the enchantments of political life under Milošević may be fruitfully seen as a dreambook of Serbian national imaginary.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Marko Živković is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta.

Editorial Reviews

[The author] analyzes the ways in which intellectuals contributed to and directly supported the nationalistic discourse of Milosevic's Serbia, relying on the Kosovo narrative of victimhood and exceptionalism.


Živković proves to be an engaging, but also well-informed, guide to ways in which certain key aspects of Serbian history, geography and culture are not only produced but also endlessly debated and assigned new meanings. Primarily addressed to readers in social and cultural anthropology, the book will also be of use to historians: the theory is sophisticated, but worn relatively lightly, with attempts to engage the lay reader. Quite lengthy endnotes provide necessary context and explanation for the uninitiated, as do a dozen or so suggestive illustrations.

English Historical Review

[A] fascinating addition to Indiana University Press's series on 'New Anthropologies of Europe,' as well as a contribution to the broader academic literature related to the decline of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Unlike most studies of this period, which focus on the larger ethnonationalist, political, and historical processes that divided Yugoslavia under the leadership of Slobodan Milošević, Živković draws attention to the private narratives that Serbian civilians used to make sense of their shifting roles and social realities in the new Serbia. In doing so, Živković reveals a complex matrix of ethnonationalist mythologies that were revised and reinvented by Serbian civilians in their efforts to come to terms with the lived experiences of political upheaval, war, and mass atrocities. 40.1 2013


[E]ssential for anyone interested in Serbian and Yugoslav history and Balkan studies more generally.


Anthropologist Živković takes readers a long way toward a long overdue, fair-minded, and full analysis of the Serbian imaginary. . . . Highly recommended.


Serbian Dreambook is a must-read for all—graduate students and scholars in social sciences, even political scientists and journalists—interested in European identities, particularly southeastern European identities: how they are created, perpetuated, and sustained. It also contributes to the further understanding of present-day political realities in Serbia.