In the Archive, again…

It has been a very long time. The last time I spent time in an archive was in 1996, when for about three months I haunted the Arhiv Jugoslavije in Belgrade. It was not a fruitful haunt, through no fault of mine or the archive itself. Sometimes, it just doesn’t produce.

Before that, it was 1988-89, in the Arhiv Hrvatske (now the Hrvatski Drzavni Arhiv) and then the Arhiv Srbije (is that what it was called? memory fades…). The Arhiv Hrvatske was a frustrating place then — frustrated people worked there, it was a sort of surly place, lots of petty oversight, not much in the way of help.

I’m happy to report that this has changed, along with the name. I’m seeing good materials, thanks to a helpful archivist whose name I must get. There is plenty of somewhat petty oversight — I feel surveilled, frankly, but they are letting me use a camera, and while plowing through thousands of pages to find dozens that are useful is a bit difficult (I last about 5 hours doing that, which today was four boxes of official correspondence), the stuff I’m finding is the good stuff.


Is tourism the last resort? The research leading up to the creation of the nature park indicated that the search was for an economic model that would revive Zumberak, keep the population home, etc. We end up with a virtual museum, a skansen, a playground. Is this the last resort? Other examples of this, at least as possibility?


is man trapped in processes/cycles/habits/forms that are out of his control?

does a person in Zumb have agency? in any period?

where is the agency? who/what does have agency? what is the
irreducible thing, mover of history there?

in this quarantine zone, this place where time stands still, what can
a person control?

Around the Table with my People

Two days last week I sat around at my cousins’ apartment, doing what we always do when I show up, which is eat, talk, enjoy,and complain about whatever. But I’m more intent on picking their brains about Zumberak these days, for obvious reasons. A thing or two that emerged:

1. They do in fact have a concept of what is Zumberak and what is not. What is: Greek Catholics, and a particularly restricted geographic area. Below Sosice, only to Restovo. Not Kostanjevac, not Ostrc, not Pribic, certainly not Krasic. What is not: Roman Catholics.

2. While everything that is written (scholarly and facebooky) leaves the strong impression that today the Zumbercani are convinced Croats, with the meager exception of Josipovic who notes that in the 1950s many of them checked the Serb box on the census for a quick historical moment, my cousin Marija was quite clear that she, her family, and other Greek Catholics were and still are Serbs. Her birth certificate says “Serb.” She left the clear impression that this is the private, at-home truth to this day. Until the HDZ, she says, the people would tell you that relatively openly. Only since then has it been a subject of fear and cloaking.

I have a date on Monday at 10 a.m. to go and talk to her and her sister about all of this. An interview. My first ethnographic foray. Not sure if they’ll be a regular thing, but.

George Kubler on History (Art) Helps Me Out

A friend gave me her readings from her graduate course in Art, to read while away. I’ve finally had the opportunity to turn to them. An excerpt from Kubler’s “The Shape of Time” is up right now. I’m enjoying reading it; among other things, he has commented on the nature of my own profession (historian) in ways that help me understand better what I am, or could be, doing (I have not been terribly introspective about my work in life).

“When an important work of art has utterly disappeared by demolition and dispersal, we still can detect its perturbations upon other bodies in the field of influence.” (19)

This quote I have decontextualized; but, it nonetheless prompted some meandering thoughts on the question addressed just now in a previous post (quarantine). To wit: in seeking to identify that which matters, is important, about this odd place called Zumberak, could we try to imagine how its non-existence might be recognizable, witness-able?