As it happens…

today is one day short of a year since I last posted.

It was never meant to be a regular thing.

My excuse: I thought I was going to bag my administrative job, but then for a brief shining moment it appeared that the administrative job might be worth keeping. So I still have it, and did not apply for the sabbatical.

In the meantime, the bright and shining moment has passed, and I plan on applying for the sabbatical again. I’ve been spending as much of every Tuesday and Thursday reading my tall stack of articles that result from searching “Zumberak,” “Bela krajina,” and other such terms.

Yesterday: Crkvencic and Klemencic predominated, with a dash of Mal.

My Slovene progresses. My wife asked me why I need it. Ha!

The Sabbatical Application

1. Uses of the land: as military haven; as home of cattle-rustlers; as forests to be exploited; as land to be reclaimed; as tourist destination — vikendice, “village tourism”; as nature park.

2. Immigration, emigration, return migration. As the locus of constant population movements.

3. As region of consequential identity transitions.

4. As modern-day identity battleground (Facebook!)

Clarification Regarding “Sources of Confusion”

The two pictures in that post, down below, include (a) a shot of Ante Pavelic, the poglavnik (leader) of the Independent State of Croatia and a man who nobody believes is innocent of genocide; and (b) a shot that includes the Ustaša version of the sahovnica, the Croatian coat-of-arms (this version begins in the upper left corner with a white square).

The confusion: why do we still proclaim these things? Do we really love Pavelic? These pictures were both posted on the Facebook page “I Love Zumberak,” to general acclamation. Related: Alois Stepinac is from Zumberak, and his picture is all over the place. Hm. At least his case is ambiguous.

It’s Been Awhile

I didn’t intend to take a break from this blog, but then, who cares but me, since nobody can see it?

Developments:

1. I took an intro to ArcGIS course over the summer, from the local tax commission. It was designed for planners, assessors, and other municipal-level employees who need to be able to mix it up with land records. But it was pretty useful for me. I think I have a general sense of the ways that GIS can be useful for my Zumberak project — actually, a variety of ways; and I think I’ll be able to use it successfully. One note: wow does it look like the data entry could be brutal. But, this is a job, right?

2. I sat down to begin writing my sabbatical application for next fall (2013). It seems to me that Zumberak could spin off a number of interesting projects — sort of like Zumberak is the hub and the various spin-offs are the spokes of some magnificent wheel. But the wheel, I fear, will only be magnificent if it all fits together in some logical way. This may not be work out as well as I’d like. For instance, here are a few discrete topics that Zumberak makes possible: a study of emigration and return-migration to the US, Australia, and Canada (at least); a study of religious change over the long-term; a study of land use on a manageable scale; the growth of eco- and other types of tourism (for instance, whatever we’d call “back to the village” experiential tourism); others.

3. There’s also the autobiographical element. I am not sure whether I should proclaim or hide it. But, my aunt just got hold of a few hours of tape that my sister recorded of our grandmother before she died. I know we all like to think our family story is unique and stunningly seductive, but…I think mine is. It has love, hope, betrayal, murder, more betrayal, new starts, minor tragedies, and all plays out across the beautiful landscapes of early century California, Zumberak, and the Caucasus. I just don’t think I can acknowledge this in my sabbatical application. It will have to be the hobby portion of my work.

More soon.

Going Digital

Another piece of the personal puzzle that will eventually fall together on this blog and via the work that it describes is that I am about to embark on the GIS journey. This does not make me special – I’ve never been an early adopter, and this is no exception. The genesis of this move is in a few, again, semi-random, facts:

1. I’ve written two books, and without remorse I note that they were read and appreciated (especially the first) by people in my field, but they had limited reach. The second, which I labored over for years, made less of an impression than the first, and that was a cause of some sorrow for me. I actually had high hopes for it. Books are too much work for that little bit of satisfaction, so I’m kinda-sorta not planning on writing any more books.

2. In my other academic life, I’m directing an arts and humanities institute at my university, and one of our initiatives is to build a Digital Humanities Program.  As a result of the immersion I’ve undergone as we explore ways to fund and develop such a programm, I’ve become intrigued by the possibilities of GIS for historians. Spatial Humanities: rah!

3. When I think about work on Zumberak, I usually find myself thinking about population movements, religious change, environmental change,  etc. It occurred to me recently (in the past year?) that GIS would work well with these sorts of analysis.

4. So, here we go. In late July I’m taking a course in town (three days long) on using ARCgis. My hope is to be able to do my work on Zumberak in digital form rather than as books and articles. Or, at least do a little of both.

This blog

For some time — approximately 23 years — I’ve been gathering pieces of a future project as I work on other projects. Having spent my career studying Serbs in Croatia, Serbian politics, Serbian nationalism, Serbia’s modern wars, and the social habits of (you guessed it) Serbs, all of which are fairly modern research areas, I’ve long harbored the desire to move to an earlier time. One in which the subjects of my research are not alive. One that would allow me to gain some distance and lose some emotional investment, neither of which were possible, for instance, when writing about a bunch of nutty (and living) Serbian cultural figures who arguably started a war.

The future project is something, I don’t know precisely what, on a region known as Zumberak. The initial sources of my interest in Zumberak were these:

1. My grandfather was an immigrant born in what is now Slovenia, what was then Austria-Hungary (he probably came to the US in about 1920). He was not political, maintained no links to his family, and remained for me a pretty silent figure until his death in 1979, but I was always curious. This curiosity partly explains the fact that I study former Yugoslavia and Southeastern Europe.

2. My dissertation research was on the Serbian community of Croatia.

3. While doing that research in 1988-89, I sought out my grandfather’s family, about whom I only knew the name of their village and the nearest town to it (the village: Dole; the town: Metlika).

4. I discovered while visiting with them that they were “Zumbercani” — a term that meant nothing to me at that time, from a place whose name was not on any of my maps.

5. I then discovered during my research that Zumberak was one of the leftovers of the old Vojna Krajina (Military Frontier), and that my grandfather was thus in some distant sense one of the subjects of my dissertation research.

From that point, I began quietly collecting articles, documents, interviews, maps, and other things. This blog is the beginning of that research project.

It’s possible nobody but me will ever see this, but for the record, I plan on using this as a sandbox.