Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2016 Citation Recipient

Jelena Batinić

The Barbara Jelavich Book Prize, established in 1995 and sponsored by the Jelavich estate, is awarded annually for a distinguished monograph published on any aspect of Southeast European or Habsburg Studies since 1600, or nineteenth and twentieth- century Ottoman or Russian diplomatic history in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Jelena Batinić
Title: Women and Yugoslav Partisans: A History of World War II Resistance (Cambridge University Press)

This exceptional monograph tells the story of how the Yugoslav Communist party successfully mobilized large numbers of women during World War II. Drawing from Yugoslav military and Communist party archives, the organs of the Anti-fascist Front of Women, local and national Partisan press, participant memoirs and diaries, and postwar fiction and films, Batinić examines the Communists’ distinct rhetorical, institutional, and practical strategies for mobilizing women. Particularly effective is the way that Batinić combines a close reading of daily practices among the Partisans with discursive analysis of Party propaganda—notably the adaptation of heroic imagery from epic folklore—to make sense of the paradox of the Communists’ success with large segments of a conservative and illiterate peasant female population. She demonstrates that, counterintuitively, traditional notions of gender, sex, motherhood, and even morality were deployed for revolutionary purposes. Moreover, contrary to socialist claims of gender equality, Batinić reveals that the ways that women participated in the Partisan army and the way that their participation was represented in postwar discourse cemented traditional, even reactionary gender norms in socialist-era Yugoslavia. War and revolution proved not catalysts for thorough change, but agents of calcification in important social realms. Batinić’s skillful integration of comparative cases speaks to the significance of the Yugoslav example in thinking about questions of gender, war, and Communism in Eastern European history and memory.  In the book’s final chapter, Batinić offers a compelling cultural analysis of how the legacy of the partizanka–the female wartime Partisan–was appropriated in socialist discourses and woven into the Communists’ foundational myths of Yugoslavia, only to be forgotten by mass culture after the Communists fell from power in the 1990ѕ.

Honorable Mention: Robert Donia
Title: Radovan Karadžić: Architect of the Bosnian Genocide (Cambridge University Press)

Donia’s book examines the life of Radovan Karadžić, the Bosnian Serb political leader convicted by the ICTY for genocide, in order to understand the political, social, and economic conditions under which someone could shift from political indifference to radical nationalism, converting from an intellectual who respected people of other backgrounds into a politician intent on realizing a Serb utopian vision using any means deemed necessary. Donia’s nuanced reading utilizes a unique source: his own testimony against Karadžić as an expert witness at the ICTY, an experience that included a cross-examination by Karadžić himself. The book integrates this personal experience with close readings of previously untapped primary source material, including reports amassed by the ICTY, transcripts of the wartime sessions of the Bosnian Serb Assembly, the diaries of Ratko Mladić, Karadžić’s top military commander, and Karadžić’s speeches and texts. Ultimately, the book proves not only a biography of one génocidaire; it is also an exploration of the causes, conduct, and consequences of Bosnian Serb nationalism in the 1990s.