Balkans & Anatolia

posted by ush on 2009/04/23 10:19

[ Balkans ]

Right before the start of the Workshop on Balkan Studies (April 25, 2009) Alexander Vezenkov published a revised edition of his paper History Against Geography: Should We Always Thik of the Balkans as Part of Europe? originally published by the IWM.

Vezenkov approaches Balkan Studies via historiography in an Anatolian context that contradicts the rather exclusive traditional European context of Balkan Studies. The Europeanization of the Balkan region has to neglect the long Ottoman period, as well as large parts of Balkan culture formed in this period. The made-up opposition between Ottoman=Oriental=Asian=external and Byzantine=Western=European=internal has far reaching consequences: the Ottoman domination on the peninsula, in the end, looks like an incident, covered by a suspiciously long longue durée on the one hand. On the other hand, the point of view of Europe's characteristic of "unity in diversity" gives the possibility to choose what to discard as "temporary", which is - no wonder - the Ottoman and Islamic context of that region.

The obsession with geographical borders between Asia and Europe, Orient and Occident misleads historiography:

The problem is that the geographical boundary between Europe and Asia has never been a political or cultural border in the history of the region – it hardly had more importance than the Greenwich Meridian. The Ancient Greeks who invented it lived on both sides. [...] The Romans did not see it as a border either, and the division of the empire into Eastern and Western parts had nothing to do with it. During the Middle Ages and in Early Modernity, while today’s Europe was taking shape, the Balkans and the neighboring "Asian" region Anatolia had a very similar fate under Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire and remained like twins till the 19th – beginning of the 20th century.

Vezenkov concludes that the delimitation of Balkan Studies to the Balkan peninsula is forced to mistreat historiography for the sake of an imagined geography modelled to serve political interests and cultural stereotypes. Instead of the continuation of the Europeanization of the Balkans, he pleads for the inclusive historiography of Balkan-Anatolian Studies.


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Einblicke in Editor's Welt. Interessiert an Geisteswissenschaften, staunend über Medien, Tendenz zum Bizzarren, vor allem in der Literatur. Über Anregungen, Kritiken, Kommentare freuen sich Usha Reber (editor@kakanien.ac.at und János Békési (webmaster@kakanien.ac.at).
The workshop Balkan Studies - quo vadis? is held on April 25, 2009.

Venue: HS, Inst. Slawistik, AAKH / Campus
The programme is to be found here, the abstracts are available as Balkan Studies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and as pdf.
Ort: HS, IOG, AAKH, Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Wien
Zeit: 2. bis 4. April 2009
Veranstalter: IOG, Kk.rev
Funding: Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung, Köln

Programm, Abstracts (.pdf)
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