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  • Globalizing Southeastern Europe: Emigrants, America, and the State since the Late Nineteenth Century by Ulf Brunnbauer
  • Keely Stauter-Halsted
Globalizing Southeastern Europe: Emigrants, America, and the State since the Late Nineteenth Century. By Ulf Brunnbauer ( Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016. xvii plus 357 pp. $110.00).

During the great nineteenth-century labor migrations, over half of all Croats and Slovenes working in the United States eventually returned home. The figure was still higher for Bulgarians, Serbs, Montenegrins, and Turks. In his sweeping work, Globalizing Southeastern Europe, Ulf Brunnbauer assesses the impact of these returnees and the migration regimes that guided and monitored their behavior. Viewing this movement through the prism of sending countries, from the Habsburg Monarchy to the Ottoman Empire and the newly formed independent states in between, Brunnbauer traces the interplay of individual and familial decisions, state-building projects, and the fortunes of nationalist movements over a century of transatlantic interactions. He analyzes the migration patterns and popular memories that culminated in the resurgence of Yugoslav Gastarbeiter to North America in the 1960s. As Brunnbauer depicts it, migration from the village was neither exceptional nor traumatic for most peasant households but reflected individual and communal choice or rational reactions to moments of crisis. Travelers did not take to the road because of larger demographic or economic shifts, though such trends played a role, nor were they victims of nefarious migration agents hawking steamer tickets and false promises. Rather, networks of information and assistance from local priests, innkeepers, and notaries paved the way; letters and stories from migrants themselves communicated the lure of America. In the end, migrants "pushed and pulled on their own" (83), says Brunnbauer. Independent émigré activity continued in the founding of mutual aid and charitable societies to help keep migrants in touch with home villages and to maintain their status as a "constitutive part of the native household" (110). These associations (totaling over 1,100 separate bodies for Slovenes in the United States alone), Brunnbauer argues, were unlike anything workers had experienced before leaving home, reflecting a spirit of self-organization that belies "the notion that migrants are only victims of circumstances" (104).

Globalizing Southeastern Europe extends the work of scholars such as Tara Zahra, Adam McKeown, and Nancy Green by recognizing how the nineteenth-century state compromised freedom of movement and, at the same time, demonstrating how migration itself helped trigger enhanced enforcement of territoriality. Migrant behavior prompted government action to restrict travel agents, tighten border control, and strengthen traveler identification requirements. For Brunnbauer, nationalist governments used migration as a tool to achieve ethnically unified populations, encouraging the departure of minorities such as Muslim Turks and Albanians from interwar Yugoslavia, while restricting the exodus of dominant nationals. Imperial regimes, by contrast, acted on concerns about the healthy body of their subjects to restrict migration to certain colonial destinations, such as Brazil, out of anxiety that migrants might fall into slave-like conditions, an inversion of colonial hierarchies of civilization. Migration also pushed governments to change their relationships with citizens, creating "transnational social spaces" that allowed the eyes of the state to follow emigrants abroad, extending imagined [End Page 637] territorial boundaries and claiming a continuous affiliation with émigrés through newspapers, associations, and consular activities. In this context, the re-emergence of migration from Southeastern Europe during the Cold War came about as a result of longstanding cultural ties maintained even during the interwar nadir of transatlantic travel. Here, however, Brunnbauer's scope becomes disappointingly narrow, excluding Balkan countries with more restrictive travel policies and stopping short of a full account of how citizens from communist Yugoslavia interacted with earlier generations of migrants organized in ethnically based associations abroad.

Brunnbauer reminds us that migration policies varied widely across the region, contrasting the ostensibly liberal practices of imperial states with the more restrictive controls that new nation-states imposed. Yet this distinction is arguably open to challenge at the local level. Many a peasant sneaking over the border from Austria to Germany bound for northern ports would be surprised to learn that "nearly all citizens who wanted to do so were free to emigrate" (150) from Austria until conscription laws tightened in 1913...


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pp. 637-638
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