Sunday, 24 August 2014

027 - Croatian identity formation in South Australia 1945–1995: a model for the future?

027 - Croatian identity formation in South Australia 1945–1995: a model for the future?

Vesna Drapač
(University of Adelaide, Australija)


This paper takes the example of Croatian communities in South Australia to demonstrate how their interactions with mainstream structures of social and cultural life enabled them to fulfill their desire to become recognised as Croatians.

This basic recognition was important to them as officially they were known as “Yugoslavs”. However, their associational life led to more than recognition. Engagement with non-Croatians provided opportunities for new immigrants to establish independent organisations and to interact with a wider cross-section of people than might ordinarily have been the case given their comparatively low socio-economic status and the generally negative perception of Croatians as politically reactionary.

My presentation will analyze Croatian associational life centred on religious institutions and sport, notably football (soccer).

These two examples demonstrate how integration became the vehicle for the wider acknowledgement and successful promotion of Croatian identity in South Australia. Community activism reached its apogee during the war for Croatian independence and, in its immediate aftermath, there was a general sense that Croatians in South Australia had contributed to an actual and metaphorical victory on many fronts.

Drawing on this historical background, my paper will seek to establish whether the established pattern of Croatian activism is still appropriate today. It will ask whether its nature and focus meet the needs of third and fourth generation Croatian Australians. Is it a model that can foster deeper and ongoing relations with a new and sovereign Croatia or should it be modified with a view to seeking additional points of focus for Croatian associational life?

Paper presented at the First Croatian Emigration Congress, Zagreb 23 - 26 June 2014.

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