A Feeling of Crisis? Part 1

posted by ush on 2009/04/26 18:20

[ Balkans ]

Yesterday's workshop on Balkan Studies was quite intense. The pretty tight schedule mirrors the high concentration of information that was given and discussed. All the speakers and presentations have been excellent, and though space for discussion was limited several debates about how to define "the Balkans" and "Balkan Studies", about the terminologiy of area studies, spatiality, cultures, and about the politics of funding and academia in general were going on.


With his introductory remarks about the current disciplinary, institutional, and theoretical crisis of Balkan Studies, Maximilian Hartmuth prepared the ground for the three position papers of the first session: Karl Kaser picked up the debate between Holm Sundhaussen und Maria Todorova on the definition of the Balkan area. While Sundhaussen's terminologiy of historical areas and their specific spatiality is in danger of reenacting territorial and cultural essentialism, Todorova's concept of the Balkans' historical legacy points out the processuality of the establishment of any area or region. The decline of public interes in the Balkans and Balkan Studies alike is not creating any crisis according to Kaser. What does bring the crisis, however, are the longevity of the concept of historical regions enhanced by collaborative programs drawing artificial and arbitrary borders within a space hold together by the historical legacy of Ottoman history and heritage.

The scond speaker of the first session, Edin Hajdarpasic from Loyola University Chicago dealt with the US American historiography of the Balkans and Balkan Studies as a part of Eastern Europe / East European Studies. Based on Anderson Hajdarpasic questioned the historical basis of area studies and their implicit assumption, the unconscious of area studies, that comparison between indistinct, large regions is possible. Area Studies as initiated by the interests and politics of the Cold War are now in a crisis due to transnationalism and globalisation. East European Studies were fragmented and gave Balkan Studies a chance to emerge as an area due to immense journalist sources, on the one hand, while on the other hand these Nationalism Studies Eastern Europe are put into crisis themselves by the ongoing EU integration that partitioned the Balkans once more and created the Western Balkans. Hajdarpasic pleaded with his presentation for theory with a small "t", for engagement in theory devlivering a tool kit to approach the historicity of any terminology and discipline.

Wladimir Fischer outlined the transformations of systems of knowledge in German speaking European countries from "Balkanologie" to "Balkan Kompetenzen". While Balkanologie philologically and archeologically dealt with mostly textual sources, translated, edited, and archived them, flolklore studies and anthropology came into the play and started cultural mappings of the Balkans in interrelation with local projects of a similar kind. Today, the interest in the Balkans has grown, but considerably changed, at the same time. Based on the archive of knowledge from earlier times, dilomatic and economic strategies for successful political, media, or market strategies are searched and accordingly the teaching of Balkan Studies has become business, modelled by the British example. In order to secure the future of Balkan Studies as a body of knowledge and not only a an adaptable bundle of strategies and practices, Fischer opted for a new canonization of Balikan Studies.



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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