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The SANU Memorandum: Intellectual Authority and the Constitution of an Exclusive Serbian "People"

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Through this essay, I assert that the intellectual authority of prominent cultural intellectuals can affect a form of "cultural pedagogy" that can essentially re-educate an audience through constitutive discourses that can re-articulate that audience's identity, cultural framework, and historical references, and in so doing can normalize mass violence. Serbian intellectuals and cultural elites played a prominent role in initializing the extreme nationalist mindset that increasingly polarized Yugoslavia throughout the 1980s. In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU) drafted a Memorandum, the publication of which in the Serbian newspaper Vjecernje Novosti is retrospectively the precipitating event that awakened Serbian national consciousness. This essay critiques the 1986 Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences with regard to its role in constructing an exclusive and politically charged Serbian identity. Beginning with an examination of the Memorandum's central claims, this essay asserts that the dominant mythic themes that emerge in the document were part of a deliberate teleological reordering of historical events that provided the foundation for the constitutive rhetoric of Serbian intellectuals-turned-politicians. This essay allows for a deeper understanding of the effects of constitutive discourses, rooted in a mythos of victimization, on the emergent nationalism and mass violence in the former Yugoslavia.

Keywords: Constitutive Rhetoric; Ethno-Nationalism; Identity; Intellectual Authority; Kosovo; Serbia

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-06-01

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