Author:Pamela Ballinger (Bowdoin College)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines how the peripherality of the eastern Adriatic, long imagined by outsiders in negative terms as “backwards,” becomes viewed as a positive “natural” resource. The analysis focuses on debates around a marine protected area (MPA) declared off the Croatian island of Losinj in 2006.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines the ways in which the peripherality of the eastern Adriatic, long imagined by outsiders (as well as many locals) in negative terms as "backwards," becomes viewed as a positive resource, with backwardness reinscribed as "uncontaminated" and "natural." The analysis focuses on debates around a marine protected area (MPA) that the Croatian state declared off the island of Losinj in 2006. The declaration of this MPA followed out of the efforts of the NGO Blue World, which contends that the waters off of Losinj constitute a critical dolphin habitat. In the paper, I examine various perspectives on the MPA, including those of the scientists at Blue World, local tour operators, tourists to the island, and fishermen.
I situate the ongoing reconceptualization of the waters off of Losinj in a long history of discourses about both the Mediterranean and the Balkans as sites of archaic forms of nature and culture, primitivism, and vitality. I inquire into the historical erasures (particularly of socialist industrialization) required to sustain this vision and the ways in which a vision of an undeveloped nature and culture becomes positioned by various social actors as forward-looking and a critical asset in Croatia's EU candidacy. At the same time, the reality of a MPA remains hotly contested in local politics, suggesting that some local actors do not embrace a newly valorized understanding of "undevelopment" as a positive resource but instead fear that the realization of the MPA will keep the eastern Adriatic a "backwater."
Peripheral Europe as moralized landscapes