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Journal Article

Whitewashed empire: Historical narrative and place marketing in Vienna


Jovanović,  Miloš
Research Group Empires of Memory, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Jovanović, M. (2019). Whitewashed empire: Historical narrative and place marketing in Vienna. History and Anthropology, 30(4), 460-476. doi:10.1080/02757206.2019.1617709.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-6CCB-E
The historical narrative of Habsburg grandeur has played a decisive role in branding the Austrian capital of Vienna. While scholars have situated place-marketing strategies within de-historicized frameworks of the neoliberal city, the nostalgic framing of imperial spatial assemblages should be critically interpreted from a historical vantage point. In tourist spaces such as the Kaiserforum, urbanists, museum curators, right-wing groups, and real-estate investors employ the discourse of Habsburg patrimony to leverage past spatial inequalities for contemporary purposes. Such nostalgic narratives obfuscate the historical material conditions of their making. I argue that this very obfuscation constitutes a continuing legacy of empire. I call this process ‘whitewashed empire,’ the redeployment of imperial structures through the preservation, renovation and assemblage of material heritage. As a memorial assemblage of narrative selection and a political economic relation of exploitation, imperial nostalgia extends the work of Habsburg spatial production into the present.