Accepted Paper:

The Balkans and Europe – an uneasy relationship: Macedonia, identities and bodies  
Ilka Thiessen (Vancouver Island University)

Paper short abstract:

Discussed are the effects of the disintegration of Yugoslavia on the Republic of Macedonia. Not only are borders and political alliances changing but daily exchanges are imbued with new meaning. A new discourse develops in which women’s bodies and religion are seen as an entrance to Europe.

Paper long abstract:

My paper will discuss the effects of the disintegration of Yugoslavia on a group of young female engineers in the city of Skopje, in the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. The research on which this paper is based ranges from 1988 to 2006. During this time not only borders and political alliances changed but daily exchanges were imbued with new meaning. A new discourse developed in which women's bodies where seen as entrance to Europe, contrasting the Balkans (Albanian women within Macedonia) with Western Europe (young women engineers). New relationships emerge, imitating 'European' relationships, changing daily relationships between men and women. I wish to discuss this particular 'new meaning', its implications in the daily life of my informants, and its raison de être. I wish to show that a political loss of control within independent Macedonia versus their past-identity as Yugoslavs, is juxtaposed with another form of control, the control over women's bodies. The center-point of this new Macedonia identity is the juxtaposition of the West with 'Balkan' and of Macedonians with Albanians. These 'boundary-shapings': where does the Balkan start where does it end, what and who defines Macedonian and Albanian 'identity', these conflicting boundaries are at the heart of the ethnic conflict in Macedonia. This ethnic conflict is not based on 'ancient hatred' but on the specific political circumstances of a United Europe, its border-drawings, and its exclusion of the Balkans in the European Project.

Panel W041
Eastern boundaries, money and gender: exploring shifting locations of identity and difference on the European peripheries