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Bourgeois worlds and urban nightmares: The post-Ottoman Balkan City through the lens of Milutin Uskoković’s Newcomers

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In the nineteenth century, the bourgeois elites of newly minted national capitals Belgrade and Sofia sought to produce ‘European’ urban space, their first step on a path to industrial modernity and a new relationship with the world. When such designs failed, their execution left real, devastating material consequences. This article explores the underside of elite dreams through Milutin Uskoković’s Newcomers (1910). Set in 1906 Belgrade, the novel’s tragic form emphasizes the futility of bourgeois aspirations on the periphery of global capital. I expand on such themes through archival sources, which consistently describe the post-Ottoman city as a landscape of dispossession. Ultimately, I argue that urban modernity has historically been informed by failed elite dreams and their resulting urban nightmares, particularly in spaces off-centre to capitalist flows.
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Keywords: Balkan cities; bourgeois culture; capitalism; failure; literature; periphery; urban modernity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Max Planck Institute

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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