Montenegro - Part 10

posted by usha on 2005/12/10 13:01

[ Montenegro ]

I spend these days "in Montenegro", that is, I have to read between 2 and 3 travelogues and treatises on Montengro every day, in order to be prepared for the final conference of our research project on Cores and Peripheries of Austria-Hungary, 1867-1918 in January 2006.

Though I chose that topic with a certain amount of enthusiasm and enjoyed my research most times, it starts now to become depressing. Although the travellers of the 19th and early 20th century are not only after the marvellous and phantastic, as Božidar Jezernik states for earlier travellers, but try to be "authentic" in some way they never are. On the contrary most of them don't even offer any naive look, but show the categories of their percipience instead.

These categories point out Montenegro being the ultimate periphery from the very beginning. This way, it becomes almost impossible to outline a living society, a social space. Yet, so many travelogues bear the characteristics of (fairy) tales and are comparable to the voyages of Gulliver, for example.

The so-called "Letters from a Neutral" from 1917, written by a Swiss journalist make those mechanisms of peripheral concerns most obvious: Since Montenegro is now occupied and administered by Austria-Hungary, a multicultural, civilized state, Montenegro, the foreign body, is enclosed into the time-space of "now". Thus, it becomes graspable. For instance, the perception of Montenegrin women who for decades didn't even seem to exist is outlined.

But nothing central changes: attributes of the periphery Montenegro are transferred to Albania which takes now over the role of the outermost periphery - a role that fits perfectly and has been set up long ago.

If there is anything fundamental to learn from those travellers, it disappointingly is the leveling of imaginary and geographical voyages.



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