chapter  4
15 Pages

Kosovo’s NEWBORN monument

Persuasion, contestation, and the narrative constructions of past and future
WithAlissa Boguslaw

In downtown Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo, stands an eighty-foot steel sculpture of the English word “N-E-W-B-O-R-N.” Built in 2008 to commemorate Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, NEWBORN symbolizes the former Yugoslav province’s birth as a youthful, multi-ethnic democracy and potential member of the European Union. An interactive monument, visitors and tourists come to NEWBORN to take pictures and express their thoughts on its façade, and each year on the anniversary of Kosovo’s independence, NEWBORN is repainted to express a new theme chosen by the designer, reflecting contemporary debates in Kosovo and making them visible to an international audience. Because of its orientation toward the future and annually changing façades, NEWBORN is often critiqued for creating a rupture with the past and rendering collective memory irrelevant. This chapter considers how the monument does the opposite. Echoing the rhetorical strategy used by ruling political elites to simultaneously reproduce dominant commemorative narratives that appeal to an internal audience—and project a future image of the state to the international community—NEWBORN reinforces the legacy of the past to serve elites’ vision for the future. At the same time, NEWBORN differs from traditional national monuments that tend to depict hegemonic state memories because its interactive character and changing façades make it a site open to both persuasion and contestation, demonstrated by anonymous pranks and other local interventions that subvert its intended messaging.