Can Culture be Shut Down? Bosnia's Cultural Institutions and World Heritage | Wilson Center
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Can Culture be Shut Down? Bosnia's Cultural Institutions and World Heritage

On October 4, 2012, Bosnia’s National Museum in Sarajevo closed its doors. Another six key cultural institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina likely face the same future, due to uncertain funding and legal status: Multitudes of key valuable works of art, artifacts, and books would be closed to the public and subject to possible theft, vandalism, or deterioration. On March 4, 2013, more than 300 institutions across 40 countries participated in a Museum Day of Solidarity with these seven threatened institutions by “X-ing” out one work of art to the public for one day. This public artistic action was led by a new transnational independent civic platform, Culture Shutdown. On September 20, four members of the Culture Shutdown editorial team will assemble at the Wilson Center to share their perspective on these developments and explain the situation: How did we arrive at this crisis? How do the culture and politics of today’s Bosnia intersect with the globe? Why are these cultural institutions important to save? And, what can be done? This panel will share its firsthand experience and ideas for future plans, and invite audience contributions in a mutual dialogue. In anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the closure of the National Museum on October 4, the Wilson Center will also “X” out one of its pieces of art for the day.

Jasmin Mujanović is a PhD candidate in Political Science at York University in Toronto. His dissertation is on the history of the state and participatory democratic alternatives thereto in Bosnia-Herzegovina. His commentary is regularly posted at Politics, Re-Spun but has also appeared on the New Left Project, ZNet, Balkan Insight, TransConflict, and in several academic journals and anthologies.

Azra Aksamija is the Class of 1922 Career Development Professor and Assistant Professor of the Arts at MIT Art, Culture and Technology Program. In her multi-disciplinary work that bridges art, architecture and history, Akšamija investigates the politics of identity and cultural memory on the scale of the body (clothing and wearable technologies), on the civic scale (religious architecture and cultural institutions), and within the context of history and global cultural flows. Akšamija was born in Sarajevo and holds graduate degrees in architecture from Technical University Graz and Princeton University, and received PhD in History of Islamic Art and Architecture from MIT.

Susan C. Pearce is Assistant Professor of Sociology at East Carolina University. She conducts research on the cultural contexts of politics, particularly concerning ethnicity, migration, gender, and social movements. She is the recipient of two research grants from the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Title VIII East European Studies program to study migration, gender-based violence, and Southeast Europe. She is the co-author of Immigration and Women: Understanding the American Experience from New York University Press, co-editor of two books on transitions in Eastern Europe, and author of journal articles and book chapters on the collective memory of the 1989 revolutions in East-Central Europe, immigration and intimate partner violence, and cultural changes in race relations. Her PhD is from the New School for Social Research.

Moderator:  James Snyder is a former member of the NATO International Staff in Brussels and translator of a respected history of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal by Swiss journalist Pierre Hazan.

The Culture Shutdown initiative can be found at

To access the audio of this event, please click here.


  • Azra Akšamija

    Assistant Professor in the MIT program in art, culture and technology.
  • Jasmin Mujanović

    A PhD candidate in Political Science at York University in Toronto.
  • James Snyder

    Former Member of the NATO International Staff in Brussels
  • Susan C. Pearce

    Title VIII European Studies Research Scholar
    Assistant Professor of Sociology, East Carolina University