“I Will Speak in Their Own Language”

Yugoslav Socialist Monuments and Science Fiction

Extrapolation (2019), 60, (3), 299–324.


This article analyzes the relationship between science fiction paradigms and socialist-era Yugoslav monuments through a discussion of two recent independent films, Sankofa and A Second World. In Sankofa, these monuments are documented as part of the creation of a final collective archive before the apocalyptic destruction of human society, while in A Second World the monuments visually narrate the story of an elderly man who claims to be communicating with an alien utopia. The article considers the historical context of these monuments, how they emerged into popular culture, and how their association with science fiction affects our understandings of them.

Access Token

Works Cited

Arnold, Sarah. “Urban Decay Photography and Film: Fetishism and the Apocalyptic Imagination.” Journal of Urban History, vol. 41, no. 2, 2015, pp. 326–339. Google Scholar

Bjelić, Dušan I. “Introduction: Blowing Up the Bridge.” Balkan as Metaphor: Between Globalization and Fragmentation, edited by Dušan I. Bjelić and Obrad Savić, MIT Press, 2002, pp. 1–22. Google Scholar

Carver, Minnie J. “A Second World: Communicating with Aliens as Parallel Realms Collide in the Former Yugoslavia.” Nowness, 19 Mar. 2016, www.nowness.com/story/a-second-world-yugoslavia. Accessed 14 Sept. 2019 Google Scholar

Chaubin, Frédéric. CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed. Taschen, 2012. Google Scholar

Choay, Françoise. The Invention of the Historic Monument. Translated by Lauren M. O’Connell, Cambridge UP, 2001. Google Scholar

Clear, Nic. “Architecture.” The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction, edited by Rob Latham, Oxford UP, 2014, pp. 277–290. Google Scholar

Džuverović, Lina. “In Praise of Unreliable Monuments.” Monuments Should Not Be Trusted. Nottingham Contemporary, 2016, pp. 8–28. Google Scholar

Erjavec, Aleš, editor. Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition: Politicized Art Under Late Socialism. U of California P, 2003. Google Scholar

Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. Columbia UP, 1983. Google Scholar

Fortin, David Terrance. Architecture and Science-Fiction Film: Philip K. Dick and the Spectacle of Home. Ashgate, 2011. Google Scholar

Goldsworthy, Vesna. Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination. Yale UP, 1998. Google Scholar

Grimmer, Vera, and Bogdan Bogdanović. “Cities Are Beings.” Bogdan Bogdanović: Ukleti Neimar/The Doomed Architect, edited by Vera Grimmer and Sonja Leboš, Gliptoteka HAZU, 2012, pp. 28–37. Google Scholar

Hæstrup, Jørgen. European Resistance Movements, 1939–1945: A Complete History. Meckler, 1981. Google Scholar

Hammond, Andrew. The Debated Lands: British and American Representations of the Balkans. U of Wales P, 2016. Google Scholar

Hatherley, Owen. “Concrete Clickbait: Next Time You Share a Spomenik Photo, Think About What It Means.” Calvert Journal, 29 Nov. 2016, www.calvertjournal.com/articles/show/7269/spomenik-yugoslav-monument-owen-hatherley. Accessed 14 Sept. 2019. Google Scholar

Herwig, Christopher. Soviet Bus Stops. Fuel, 2016. Google Scholar

Horvatinčić, Sanja. “Memorial Sculpture and Architecture in Socialist Yugoslavia.” Translated by Majda Muhić, Towards a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia 1948–1980, edited by Martino Stierli and Vladimir Kulić, Museum of Modern Art, 2018, pp. 104–111. Google Scholar

Isto, Raino. “In the Valley of the Time Tombs: Monumentality, Temporality, and History in SF.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 46, no. 3, 2019, pp. 490–510. Google Scholar

Judt, Tony. Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. Penguin, 2005. Google Scholar

Karge, Heike. “Sajmište, Jasenovac, and the Social Frames of Remembering and Forgetting.” Filozofija i Društvo, vol. 23, no. 4, 2012, pp. 106–118. Google Scholar

Kempenaers, Jan. Spomenik #1-26: The Monuments of Former Yugoslavia, Roma, 2010. Google Scholar

Kerslake, Patricia. Science Fiction and Empire. Liverpool UP, 2007. Google Scholar

Kirn, Gal. “Transformation of Memorial Sites in the Post-Yugoslav Context.” Retracing Images: Visual Culture After Yugoslavia, edited by Daniel Šuber and Slobodan Karamanic, Brill, 2012, pp. 251–281. Google Scholar

Kulić, Vladimir. “Orientalizing Socialism: Architecture, Media, and the Representations of Eastern Europe.” Architectural Histories, vol. 6, no. 1, 2018. Google Scholar

Kulić, Vladimir, and Maroje Mrduljaš. Modernism In-Between: The Mediatory Architectures of Socialist Yugoslavia. Jovis, 2012. Google Scholar

Lennon, John, and Malcolm Foley. Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster. Thompson, 2010. Google Scholar

Male, Andrew. “Last and First Men: Programme Notes.” Barbican, 1 Dec. 2018, www.barbican.org.uk/digital-programmes/johann-johannsson-last-and-first-men. Accessed 14 Sept. 2019. Google Scholar

Niebyl, Donald. Spomenik Monument Database. Fuel, 2018. Google Scholar

Osborne, James F. “Monuments and Monumentality.” Approaching Monumentality in Archaeology, edited by James F. Osborne, State U of New York P, 2014, pp. 1–19. Google Scholar

Pejić, Bojana. “Yugoslav Monuments: Art and the Rhetoric of Power.” MOnuMENTI: The Changing Face of Remembrance, edited by Daniel Brumund and Christian Pfeifer, Belgrade: ForumZFD, 2012, pp. 10–13. Google Scholar

Pukallus, Horst, and Darko Suvin. “An Interview with Darko Suvin: Science Fiction and History, Cyberpunk, Russia….” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 1991, pp. 253–261. Google Scholar

Ramet, Sabrina P. The Three Yugoslavias: State-Building and Legitimation, 1918–2005. Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2006. Google Scholar

Rann, Jamie. “Beauty and the East: Allure and Exploitation in Post-Soviet Ruin Photography.” The Calvert Journal, 31 July 2014, www.calvertjournal.com/features/show/2950/russian-ruins-photography. Accessed 14 Sept. 2019. Google Scholar

Rieder, John. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Wesleyan UP, 2008. Google Scholar

Riegl, Aloïs. “The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin.” Translated by Kurt W. Forster and Diane Ghirardo, Oppositions, vol. 25, 1982, pp. 21–51. Google Scholar

Sankofa. Dir. Kaleb Wentzel-Fisher. Digitial video. Molly Aida Film, 2015. Google Scholar

A Second World. Dir. Rubin Woodin-Dechamps and Oscar Hudson. Digital video. Gallivant and Oscar Hudson, 2016. Google Scholar

Stapledon, Olaf. The Last and First Men & Star Maker. Dover, 1968. Google Scholar

Strangleman, Tim. “‘Smokestack Nostalgia,’ ‘Ruin Porn’ or Working-Class Obituary: The Role and Meaning of Deindustrial Representation.” International Labor and Working-Class History, vol. 84, 2013, pp. 23–37. Google Scholar

Surtrees, Joshua. “Spomeniks: The Second World War Memorials that Look like Alien Art.” The Guardian, 18 June 2013, www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/photography-blog/2013/jun/18/spomeniks-war-monuments-former-yugoslavia-photography. Accessed 14 Sept. 2019. Google Scholar

Temple, Christel N. “The Emergence of Sankofa Practice in the United States: A Modern History.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 41, no. 1, 2010, pp. 127–150. Google Scholar

Timberlake, John. Landscape and the Science Fiction Imaginary. Intellect, 2018. Google Scholar

Todorova, Maria. “The Balkans: From Discovery to Invention.” Slavic Review, vol. 53, no. 2, 1994, pp. 453–482. Google Scholar

Urry, John. The Tourist Gaze: Leisure Travel in Contemporary Societies. Sage, 1990. Google Scholar

Van Hove, Micah. “‘Sankofa’ Is a Rare Mix of Genres that Asks Important Questions About Recorded Media.” No Film School, 2 Nov. 2015, nofilmschool.com/2015/11/sankofa-rare-mix-genres-asks-questions-about-recorded-media. Accessed 14 Sept. 2019. Google Scholar

Videkanić, Bojana. Non-Aligned Modernism: Yugoslavian Art and Culture from 1945–1990. 2013. York U, PhD dissertation. Google Scholar

Wolfe, Gary. “The Artifact as Icon in Science Fiction.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, vol. 1, no. 1, 1988, pp. 51–69. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Isto, Raino