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Intellectuals as spokespersons for the nation in the post-Yugoslav context: a critical discourse study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Federico Sicurella
Publication date2015
Number of pages251
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In contemporary post-Yugoslav societies, the ongoing processes of nation-building interact and intersect with the manifold challenges of post-socialist transition, post-conflict reconciliation, democratisation and European integration. Amid growing uncertainty and insecurity, public intellectuals may play a key role in ‘making sense’ of these complexities, in particular by shaping shared representations of the nation and by defining national identities in public discourse. Engaging in symbolic practices of nation-building, however, also enables intellectuals to legitimise their own authority and social status, as reflected in the concept of national intellectual practice elaborated by Suny and Kennedy (1999).

This thesis explores the multifaceted power dynamics underlying post-Yugoslav intellectuals’ engagement in nation-building from the perspective of the Discourse-Historical Approach to critical discourse studies (Reisigl & Wodak, 2009; Wodak, 2011). Using an innovative methodological framework based on the original notion of intellectual spokespersonship for the nation (drawing on Pels, 2000), I examine a sample of published opinion pieces addressing three key recent events, i.e. Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, Croatia’s accession into the EU in 2013, and the anti-government protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.

Detailed analysis of the patterns of intellectual spokespersonship for the nation that are distinctive to each case leads to the following conclusions. The Kosovo issue seems to have led Serbian intellectuals to refurbish their attitude as ‘saviours of the nation’, similarly to what had happened during the crisis of Yugoslavia. Croatian intellectuals, on the other hand, appear to be engaged in an effort to (re)define the role and place of the Croatian nation within the volatile context of European integration. Lastly, the ambivalent stance of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s intellectuals concerning the potential of the protest movement to undermine the status quo suggests that their involvement is chiefly aimed at strengthening their influence over the country’s public opinion.