Accepted Paper:

Movements of opening and closure in everyday Balkanism  


Stef Jansen (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

An ethnographic analysis of the moralised contrasts between urban and rural landscapes and the movements of opening and closure associated with them in everyday manifestations of Balkanism in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia.

Paper long abstract:

For sound reasons, many studies have critically deconstructed Western-imperialist representations of South-East Europe as semi-orientalist attempts to position 'the West' on a superior plane. Importantly, such work on 'Balkanism' has undermined misplaced attempts to explain the post-Yugoslav wars with reference to atavistic hatreds between tribes fighting their perennial vendettas in the wild Balkan mountains. Yet what is often forgotten is that Balkanist representations are widespread in the region itself, reproducing patterns of Eurocentrism well outside the EU. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, Balkanism emerges in many different, contradictory ways, from celebratory expressions of defiant Otherness, over somewhat embarrassing yet comforting experiences of cultural intimacy, to resolute distancing practices from the less savoury dimensions of life in the region and especially from the 1990s wars and their consequences. These internal Balkanisms serve as social commentaries on the morality of violence, politics, inequality and 'modernisation'. Whatever their substance and political orientation, their underlying matrix converges on wider understandings of villages and cities, of mountains and plains, of purity and mixing, of authenticity and sophistication. This presentation ethnographically addresses the tensions inherent in everyday manifestations of Balkanism, placing them against the background of Yugoslav urbanisation and post-Yugoslav violence. Particular attention will be paid to the moralised contrasts between urban and rural landscapes and the role of movements of opening and closure associated with them.

Panel W100
Peripheral Europe as moralized landscapes