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  • Habsburg Neu Denken: Vielfalt und Ambivalenz in Zentraleuropa—30 Kulturwissenschaftliche Stichworte ed. by Johannes Feichtinger and Heidemarie Uhl
  • Tim Corbett
Johannes Feichtinger and Heidemarie Uhl, eds., Habsburg Neu Denken: Vielfalt und Ambivalenz in Zentraleuropa—30 Kulturwissenschaftliche Stichworte. Vienna: Böhlau, 2016. 261 pp.

Habsburg Neu Denken presents a collection of thirty short essays, contributed by thirty-four scholars broadly identified as Kulturwissenschaft ler, each of which is conceived as a sort of Denkanstoß designed around a Stichwort relating to Habsburg Central Europe. They are organized alphabetically rather than by chronology or context, lending the entire volume a holistic character underscored by the manifold interconnections among its individual components. The volume generally revolves around themes of "Vielfalt und Ambivalenz" and, despite its kulturwissenschaftliche focus, the individual contributions draw on a broad range of developments in the humanities and social sciences of recent years, demonstrating the manifest inter-or multidisciplinarity of the Habsburg field. This volume, which alongside a wealth of intellectual influences draws notably and explicitly on the work of Moritz Csáky, is not only eminently readable for specialists and laypersons alike, it moreover highlights the remarkably fecund character of Habsburg Central Europe "als heterogener, plurikultureller Raum" and as a "Laboratorium" of "soziale und kulturelle Prozesse" (9). Both the individual contributions and the volume taken as a whole open a myriad of new points of departure into this already much-traversed field of study, finally foregrounding its profound relevance for highly topical and contested political developments in present-day Europe. For brevity's sake I will address only some of the contributions, especially those that I feel to be the most innovative and those exhibiting a high degree of synergy with each other.

The most intellectually novel contributions introduce concepts to the study of Central Europe on the basis of analytical developments from across the range of human and social sciences of recent years. Anil Bhatti, drawing on his own Indian cultural background, expounds "Plurikulturalität" vis-à-vis multiculturalism, the latter connoting simply the coexistence of diverse and separate groups, however defined, while the former speaks to the patchwork of interconnections and consequently the hybridity of diverse elements in complex societies. This is convincingly modeled as one of the most idiosyncratic facets of Central European cultures, informing moreover the significance of their study for present political society in Europe. In this context, Pieter Judson introduces "national indifference" as a new framework within the [End Page 188] well-established study of nationalist discourses as a means to "de-pathologize Central Europe," to place identity discourses into their more nuanced contexts, and thereby to "return it [Central Europe] to a comparative European context" (148).

Numerous contributions address such analytical developments, which moreover profoundly inform the present-day political realities of the region. Wolfgang Göderle shows that while many studies have focused on "migration" as the central driving force of cultural, social, and political developments in Central Europe, few have paid attention to the methods by which knowledge of migration was produced in the first place, an issue of central importance considering that many of these methods are still in use today. Simon Hadler explores the function of "Feindschaften" in historic socio-cultural frameworks, offering finally an analysis of the development of the image of the "Türke" in Austria through modernity and into the present day. This trope resonates in numerous contributions to this volume. Of equal political significance, Reinhard Johler examines "Vielfalt" in the Habsburg Empire as a microcosm of Europe, both in contemporary propaganda as well as in historical fact, thereby demonstrating the lessons that the Habsburg context may hold for the future direction of the European Union.

Some contributions explore particular eras of Central European history for their enduring significance in the Central European political landscape. Werner Telesko expounds on the "Barock" as a curious "Projektionsfläche […] des vermeintlich Österreichischen" through the nineteenth century (31), while Peter Stachel explores the divergent and highly politicized collective memories of the 1848 revolutions in a comparative perspective across various successor states to the Habsburg Empire. Waltraud Heindl demonstrates that "Josephinismus" as a form of governance not only describes the specificity of the Austrian Enlightenment but moreover survives in various...