Empires on the Danube

Empires on the Danube: European narratives and urban erasure in Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna and Ruse

Miloš Jovanović


My current project foregoes the bounded nature of individual urban histories in order to highlight the common structural forces and tensions of urban erasure, contemporary capitalism and the production of “European” space on the banks of the Danube. I explore how imperial pasts structure and enable projects of erasure in Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna and Ruse. In these four cities, narratives of empire deeply inform market competitiveness, national culture, and European progress. My project examines how memories of empire create amnesiac narratives, obscuring past and present dispossessions that make-up the Danubian cityscape. In Vienna and Budapest, projects of urban renewal center selective visions of the Habsburg past within contemporary discourses of Europeanness. In Belgrade and Ruse, claims to Central European heritage erase Ottoman pasts, rendering (post-)socialist transformation as a natural sequel to nineteenth-century urban change. Empire haunts the borders of Danubian urbanity in profound, yet unequal ways.