Balkan | -s - Part 34

posted by PP on 2005/10/16 16:20

[ Balkan | -s ]

Balkan Academic News sent the reviews of three books from 2002 and 2001 respectively:
  • Dusan I. Bjelić and Obrad Savić (Eds.): Balkan as Metaphor. Between Globalization and Fragmentation. Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press 2002, 382pp. [Reviewed by Andrew Gilbert (University of Chicago)]
  • Wolfgang Zellner and Falk Lange (Eds.): Peace and Stability through Human and Minority Rights: Speeches by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, 2nd Edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos 2001, 238 pp. [Reviewed by Ian R. Mitchell (Department of International Politics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth)]
  • Ghebali, Victor-Yves and Daniel Warner (Eds.): The Operational Role of the OSCE in South-Eastern Europe: Contributing to Regional Stability in the Balkans. Aldershot: Ashgate 2001, 172 pp. [also reviewed by Ian R. Mitchell]
1. Dusan I. Bjelić and Obrad Savić (Eds.): Balkan as Metaphor. Between Globalization and Fragmentation. Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press 2002, 382pp.
19.95/32.00 USD (paper/cloth), ISBN: 0262025248.
[Reviewed by Andrew Gilbert (University of Chicago)]

This book constitutes a long-overdue effort to initiate a new cultural studies for the Balkans. It contains fourteen essays, the majority of which were written by academics that were educated or teach in the region. What unites each of these wide-ranging essays is an epistemological concern with how we know what we know about the Balkans. This means delving into the world of metaphor, of symbols, signs and signification, of representation and identification. It also means foregrounding that each of these processes is one through which (Western) power is exercised, and also from which a critical voice is possible. There is thus also an emancipatory thrust to the volume, in developing a critique of liberal democracy and its violent self-beautification. Following Bjelić’s excellent introduction, one finds essays on the rhetoric of Balkanisation and Byzantium, on the metaphor of vampirism and the relationship between the Balkans and (Western) Europe, on various ideological mechanisms that structure knowledge about the Balkans, on the role of war both as a diagnostic of Western power and as a way to materialize meaning, on desire and identity, on sex, heteronormativity, gender, music and memory.

In an age where scholarly articles and books are getting shorter and shorter, one extremely commendable aspect of this book is that it gives each author the amount of space necessary to develop what are often complex arguments. While each essay has something interesting to offer the reader (particular standouts to this reader were the essays by Rastko Močnik, Grigoris Ananiadis, Ugo Vlaisavljević, Ivaylo Ditchev and Petar Ramadanović), it is not always clear that each article contains an argument or larger thesis.

Readers may find themselves wishing for a reason to care about what they are reading, an explicit statement of what is at stake in any particular analysis. Other readers who are not familiar with the highly specialized theoretical terminology used in many of the essays may find the texts too opaque. This is unfortunate, because the many important and compelling insights offered in this volume’s various essays deserve to be taken seriously by all who study or produce knowledge about the Balkans, as well as those who advocate and organize interventions in various social and political fields of this corner of Europe.




2. Wolfgang Zellner and Falk Lange (Eds.): Peace and Stability through Human and Minority Rights: Speeches by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, 2nd Edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos 2001, 238 pp.
30 Euro, ISBN 3789073350 (Hardcover).
[Reviewed by Ian R. Mitchell (Department of International Politics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth)]

At a time when the role, even the existence of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is being debated, it is a very welcome exercise to consult this collection of speeches by Max van der Stoel, the former Dutch Foreign Minister and the first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). The post of High Commissioner was one of the very few new instruments for crisis prevention the international community succeeded in forging since the end of the East-West conflict. Arising out of the first phases of the Yugoslav wars, the institution has unique features: a broad mandate, a unique role for the first incumbent, and perhaps most importantly, the post of High Commissioner is precisely situated at the nexus between human and minority rights and security and thus between domestic and the international level. It is precisely this nexus that represents the distinctive feature of the OSCE.

The book contains speeches spanning the period from van der Stoel’s acceptance of the post in 1992 through the end of his tenure in 2000, and features an exclusive interview with the High Commissioner. The editors have presented the speeches as arguments in favour of the role of HCNM, and in this vain van der Stoel covers a number of issues including: positive case studies on the design and implementation of national minority rights, the role of the international community in protecting national minority rights, education rights for national minorities, early warning and early action, the plight of Roma and the relevance of international standards for the protection of minorities. Particularly worthwhile is the speech addressing the use of nationalism by some irresponsible sections of majority communities.

On a more general point, this book provides insights into the argumentation used by an important and yet discrete diplomat. In particular, it is valuable for the study of the linkages between human rights advocacy and diplomacy. At one time, and certainly within the timeframe of van der Stoel’s long career in international affairs, human rights and diplomacy would have been very separate undertakings, the latter largely uninfluenced by those advocating the former. What makes the role of the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities special is that these fields have overlapped. The High Commissioner consistently argues in his speeches for domestic policies which minimize the risk of conflict, or take steps to manage existing conflict before it becomes violent.

In the opinion of the editors, the High Commissioner’s role “nearly perfectly represents the OSCE philosophy of a co-operative approach in solving domestic ethno-political tensions which could develop into international crisis” (p.9). In this time of uncertainty as to a future role for the Organization, this book provides a highly relevant reminder of how valuable the founding philosophy of the Organization can be for the future of the OSCE area.




3. Ghebali, Victor-Yves and Daniel Warner (Eds.): The Operational Role of the OSCE in South-Eastern Europe: Contributing to Regional Stability in the Balkans. Aldershot: Ashgate 2001, 172 pp.
45 GBP, ISBN 0754615316 (hardcover).
[Reviewed by Ian R. Mitchell (Department of International Politics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth)]

As the countries of South-Eastern Europe approach more formal negotiations with the European Union, one can and should reflect on the role of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in helping the states of the region to move away from conflict and towards, hopefully, a future in European institutions. This volume is almost unique in providing both analysis by practitioners and corresponding discussion by academics on the OSCE’s activities in the region. It should not go unnoticed that the OSCE’s missions in South-Eastern Europe remain by far the largest component of the organization’s annual budget.

The scope of this volume reflects the importance of the region to the OSCE and the diversity of the organization's representation in the region. Interestingly, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia is given pride of place in the first chapter as an example of a success story, although quite how reasonable it is to compare a UN mission with an OSCE field operation would merit greater debate. Readers familiar with the large OSCE missions in Bosnia and Kosovo will know that they work very much within a web of international organizations, in which the role of the OSCE itself is party defined by the interests of other international decision-making fora, such as the Peace Implementation Council in the Bosnian case.

In general, the design of this volume reflects particular counties and particular problems. The book covers all of the OSCE long-term missions in South-Eastern Europe: Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia are dealt with as well as the aforementioned Bosnia and Kosovo. The contributions regarding the majority of these consist of status reports by the Heads of the OSCE Missions. However, both the Bosnia and the Macedonia mission are also given serious treatment by academics to contrast with and further illuminate the arguments of the mission personnel.

Part one of the book gives the impression of detailed overviews of field operations which somehow lacks clear thematic links. However, part two provides a much more wide-ranging view of the development of regional stability in South-Eastern Europe. In this area, it focuses on the Stability Pact, co-operation between international organizations during the wars in Yugoslavia and an assessment of the 1999 Istanbul Charter for European Security. The book also provides a useful annex with a collection of key texts referred to in the chapters.

There is no specific conclusion to this volume. On the contrary, it provides a curious mix of strong opinion and caution. Erik Pierre, a former diplomat but current member of a notable policy and advocacy-oriented international NGO in the region is particularly forthcoming. In contrast, the then-Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel is, perhaps understandably for a current diplomat, rather the opposite. That is a reasonable reflection of this unique and useful, but occasionally frustrating examination of the OSCE's role in the region.




© 2005 Balkan Academic News.
Book Review Editors for Balkan Academic News: Jelena Obradović and Cristina Bradatan.


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Senior Editor

Seitenwechsel. Geschichten vom Fußball. Hgg. v. Samo Kobenter u. Peter Plener. Wien: Bohmann 2008, 237 pp.
(Weitere Informationen hier)
Transcarpathica. Germanistisches Jahrbuch Rumänien 3-4/2004-2005. Hgg. v. Andrei Corbea-Hoisie u. Alexander Rubel. Bukarest/Bucuresti: Editura Paideia 2008, 336 pp.
[Die online-Fassung meines Einleitungsbeitrags "Thesen zur Bedeutung der Medien für Erinnerungen und Kulturen in Mitteleuropa" findet sich auf Kakanien revisited (Abstract / .pdf).]
Seitenweise. Was das Buch ist. Hgg. v. Thomas Eder, Samo Kobenter u. Peter Plener. Wien: Bundespressedienst 2010, 480 pp.
(Weitere Informationen hier wie da, v.a. auch do. - und die Rezension von Ursula Reber findet sich hier [.pdf].)
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