The Habsburg Legacy of Multilingualism: Perspectives from Borderlands and Border Communities in South-Eastern Europe

In Habsburg-ruled South-Eastern Europe, multilingual and multiethnic societies were a historical reality for centuries, due to the diverse ethnic and linguistic composition of the region and the language policy of the Habsburg Monarchy. However, by the end of the 19th century, the rich formal and informal practices of multilingualism that had existed until then came under pressure of monolingual tendencies promoted by national movements. These tendencies became only stronger after the collapse of the Monarchy in 1918 and the creation of new national borders. Many multilingual practices either ceased to exist or were transformed and re-emerged in different guises, resisting the homogenizing and segregating policy of the nation-states. This panel aims to investigate multilingualism as imperial legacy in South-Eastern Europe in its diachronic and synchronic dimension, with particular emphasis on the Imperial border regions, e.g. Istria, the Italian-Slovene-Austrian region, Slavonia, Vojvodina, and Transylvania. We also welcome papers on minority communities situated in the central parts of the Monarchy which established transnational networks with co-ethnics in the borderlands. The panel will consider, among other things, multilingual policies, how multilingual practices were situated in everyday experience, as well as perceptions and cultural expressions of multilingualism among local communities in the region since 1918.

We invite papers exploring one or more of the following issues:

  1. Diachronic developments: language policy in the Habsburg Empire and in its South-Eastern European successor states; memories of multilingual practices in the region (approaches from oral history, anthropology, cultural memory studies)   
  2. Synchronic developments in post-Habsburg borderlands and communities: lived practices of multilingualism today as related to current legislation, language rights and minority rights, multilingualism in education, discourses of multilingualism in the region
  3. Literary works and journals from the post-Habsburg borderlands that challenge the dominant monocultural and monolingual paradigm of the nation-state; forms of bilingual writing; representations of multilingualism in the work of minority writers or migrant writers from the region

Please send your abstract and brief cv to and by 22 September.