The Balkan Prospect: Identity, Culture, and Politics in by V. Calotychos

By V. Calotychos

Winner of the Edmund Keeley booklet Prize

Following the autumn of the Soviet Union in 1989, the borders hitherto isolating Greek tradition and society from its contiguous Balkan polities got here down, and Greeks needed to reorient themselves towards their speedy acquaintances and redefine their position inside of Europe and the hot, extra fluid worldwide order. Projecting the political foresight and mustering the modernization guidelines to achieve such an project became out to be no small feat, specifically because the nearby conflicts that had lain dormant through the chilly struggle have been revived. Synthesizing the cultural, political, and ancient right into a refined, interdisciplinary research, this cutting edge learn untangles the lengthy 'historical second' during which Greece and Europe have been successfully held hostage to occasions within the Balkans - simply on the time while either was hoping to function the region's welcoming hosts.

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The political scientist Sappho Xenakis (2010 ) provides a suggestive model by arguing that “western” and what she refers to as “balkanist” conceptions of “good” are not incommensurate value systems in the Greek context. In using the word “balkanist” here, Xenakis ignores Todorova’s use of the term. To avoid confusion, I will not follow Xenakis’s use of “balkanist,” but I rename it the “Balkan good” while still retaining something of her notion. For this “Balkan good” refers to a necessary defense against foreign penetration and threats to independence.

In a word, European, compared to the primitive, lazy, intolerant Balkans” (8). 17 This recourse to Orientalism was short-lived, mostly thanks to Todorova’s Imagining the Balkans (1997), a seminal work that appeared while the Yugoslav conflict was still fresh in the Western imagination. Todorova utilizes a cultural-studies methodology, albeit with a historian’s unyielding, empirical backbone. She shuns “avant-guardist cultural theory,” as she puts it, for the more august history of concepts, or Begriffsgeschichte.

Todorova is explicit about its effect: “While historians are well aware that dramatic changes have occurred on the peninsula, their discourse on the Balkans as a geographical/cultural entity is overwhelmed by a discourse utilizing the construct as a powerful symbol conveniently located outside historical time. And the usage itself is the product of nearly two centuries of evolution” (Todorova 1997: 7; italics mine). In examining the evolution of this paradigm, Todorova rejects the position that Balkanism is a subspecies of Saidian Orientalism and distances herself from the work of scholars like Bakić-Hayden and Hayden or Elli Skopetea.

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