The assassination of the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo was the immediate cause of a diplomatic crisis that led to the First World War, thus marking the onset of the twentieth century and the decline of European international hegemony. It was also highly predictable, utterly random, and entirely disproportionate to its global cataclysmic consequences.
My research project thus treats the Sarajevo assassination as what the historian Pierre Nora calls a “lieu de mémoire,” a site of memory on which to explore how this contradictory past has been re-used, re-interpreted and, even, re-invented through different time frames and in diverse social, cultural, and political contexts. By examining monuments, museums, memoirs, anniversaries, art, textbooks, literature, folklore, film, media, and scholarly writing itself, my work explores the manifold ways in which the assassination has been conjured and construed since it first entered human consciousness as an event of world historical significance.
In so doing, the study also seeks understanding of how this difficult past has been assimilated and absorbed in different European contexts and, thereby, of the Sarajevo assassination’s inherent capacity to link the diverse states and peoples of Europe into a “gesamteuropäische Erinnerungskultur,” or European-wide memory culture—a concept which has attracted much attention from academics and the EU of late in terms of probing the roots and possibilities of pan-European identity.