Memory, Museums and Multidirectionality in Dubravka Ugrešić’s The Museum of Unconditional Surrender
Schoor, M.E.L. van den
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This thesis explores how Dubravka Ugresic’s 1996 novel The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, through the trope of museum and archiving, asserts the difficulty of reconciling memories of contested pasts in relation to the establishment of a common European memory. Departing from debates surrounding this question and the need for renewed, inclusive understandings of remembrance, citizenship and belonging, the thesis examines how literature can politically and aesthetically inspire to reimagine conceptions of cultural remembrance and ways of reconciling contested pasts. The theoretical framework proposes a conception of cultural memory as multidirectional, transnational and performative and relates existing theories of museums and the archive to everyday, material memory. A close reading in two parts examines the various levels of (material) memory in the novel as a way to articulate the narrator’s own exile and post-Yugoslav remembrance while simultaneously relating to others’ through the tropes of collections, artworks, photography and the flea-market. The second part examines how the spaces of the public museum and the flea-markets in the novel occupy the social function of community building through multidirectional and cosmopolitan collective remembrance. As an “archaeologist of the everyday”, by adopting the strategies of museum and archiving in relation to everyday experience, the novel preserves memories otherwise lost or discarded, while establishing a multidirectional map of memory among various exile pasts within the novel, also including the reader as implicated subject. The novel suggests an alternative remembrance strongly grounded in everyday life while constantly problematizing traditional, state-funded models of remembering and ultimately homogenizing metanarratives.