Member of the Week: Jovana Babovic

Geneseo faculty picture (Babovic)Jovana Babović

Assistant Professor of History

SUNY Geneseo

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest? 

I am currently working on a social history of animals in Yugoslavia. As I was researching entertainment for my book Metropolitan Belgrade: Class and Culture in Interwar Yugoslavia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), I kept noticing the discrete yet prevalent place of animals in everyday urban life. I wanted to know more about the animals that populated Belgrade and other Yugoslav cities, so I’m devoting my next project to studying the evolving relationship between the natural world and the built environment. For instance, I’m exploring the development of industries like butchering and breeding that commodified animals for human leisure, and I’m considering calls for animal protection and vegetarianism. Yugoslavia’s twentieth century coincided with heightened modernization and industrialization, and I’m finding some hardy debates about the role of animals in urban spaces.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

I teach a variety of thematic courses on modern European history, such as “War and Peace in the Balkans” and “Nationalism and Ethnic Violence.” One of my favorite courses to teach at Geneseo is a research methods seminar for history majors on urban history. In this course, I teach students how to read and interpret sources like maps, newspapers, and photographs. Then, I guide them as they design, research, and write their own urban history projects. My students have done some amazing original research on topics ranging from the heavy metal scene in 1970s London to ADA compliance and accessibility in 1990s New York City.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

I am very much looking forward to the publications of two exciting new books in the coming year that will challenge the way we think about borders and boundaries in postwar Europe. One is Maddie Fichter’s Strange Forest: Counterculture and Youth Opposition in the Socialist Balkans, 1965-1975 (Oxford University Press), and the other is Jeff Hayton’s Culture from the Slums: Punk Rock in East and West Germany (Oxford University Press).

What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies? 

What drew me initially to urban history was its methodological diversity. I liked having the freedom to draw upon a broad variety of sources and interpretive approaches. I urge young scholars to embrace the possibilities of studying urban history and to keep pushing its disciplinary boundaries. I also encourage aspiring urban historians to read broadly outside of their geographical field. As a Europeanist, I’ve been inspired by scholarship on Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, and I think that the shared global dimensions of urban history give us an opportunity to engage in some fantastic dialogue.

You contributed a book to Bloomsbury Press’s 33 1/3 series on the Sleater-Kinney album Dig Me Out (1997). Did you love the album before you had the opportunity to write about it? Are there other albums you love that you would you like to write about?

When I was writing the proposal for a 33 1/3 volume, I selected an album that I was curious to learn more about. Although I had lived through the 1990s, I realized that I hadn’t really understood the period in which Dig Me Out was recorded and released. I had a lot of fun using sources like zines that are usually outside of my wheelhouse and conducting oral histories with living subjects. Will Stockton and D. Gilson, two fellow 33 1/3 authors, recently asked many of us to write short essays about albums we might select as our “b-sides.” I chose to write about the Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore for the compiled anthology. Twenty years from now, I might like to write about the Screaming Females or Slothrust.

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