Sanja Lazarević Radak

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Institute for Political Studies, Beograd.



Book Review: Vukasović, Dejana. 2020. Constructing a (EU)ropean Identity. The Balkans and the Western Balkans as the Other. Beograd: Institut za političke studije, str. 194.



The literature that explores the representations of the Balkans is based on the assumption that the Balkans were constructed, imagined or invented. This claim is usually accompanied by the attempts to highlight the discrepancy between physical and imaginary geography and to point out the gap in semantics between the Balkan Peninsula and the Balkans. While the first one functions as physical geography, the other one refers to a place populated by representations, rather than people. Following the trend of linguistic and spatial turn, they hold the binary logic that insists upon the duality of the spatial. Some of the most important studies in this field can be read and interpreted as another in a series of texts about the Balkans. Thus, the aim of this paper is to: 1. Point out the places and passages where academic discourse on the Balkans separate physical and symbolic geography; 2. Highlight the political implications of this approach; 3. Suggest a geocritical aim that provides a sort of ballance between the material geography („real“) and imaginary spaces.



Until recently, the controversial concept of the archetypes of the collectively unconscious has become relevant again within the framework of political psychology. According to Agnes Horvath and Darren Kelsey, archetypal situations dominate the world political scene, and thus, archetypal figures should be identified. Drawing on the concept of affective mythologies proposed by Darren Kelsey in his book Media and Affective Mythologies: Discourse, Archetypes and Ideology in Contemporary Politics, different forms in which archetyse puer aethernus has appeared in the Balkans over the past century and a half were analyzed. The assumption that language, ideology and myth are inseparable allows the myth of puel/puella aethernus to be recognized both in internal and external discourse. Since the first reports from the Balkans linked with the independence of the states and the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans have been represented as a peninsula populated by ignorant and young people. During the interwar period, so called the liminal phase between tradition and modernity brought different form of this archetype although with similar semantics. Zenit magazine, imagining Barbarogenije, organizing the Sokolski savez Jugoslavije, affirming the myth of the St Sava is linked with the puer / puella aethernus myth. Beginning of World War II, and the construction of the socialist state, reveal that this myth was the backbone of Yugoslav socialism and its concept of non-alignment. The breakup of Yugoslavia followed a period of transition to its former republics. This process, internally and externally, is interpreted as the emergence/growth of young democracies. The Balkans, and today the Western Balkans ruled by the puer aethernus archetype, enter into a repetitive pattern of producing always new forms of youth, with new images, meanings, new rituals and renewed, modified grand narratives.


Emotional Spatiality and Critical Geography of the Balkans

Over the past thirty years the analysis of the Balkan discourse have been raised issues on spatial and symbolic distribution of the affects. Today, the subdiscipline of emotional spatiality provides a new insights into the link between the political, economic and social status of Southeastern Europe and representations that imply affects. Taking into account the knowledge which comes from imagology and postcolonial critics, new question arise: “What is the role of representation in the creation of emotional geography and vice versa.?“ Namely, these seemingly different and somewhat opposed approaches which are resistant to essentialism, outline a number of key issues which are present in the text on the Balkans. These approaches were exposed and analyzed to indicate the silent presence of emotional geography in earlier studies of the Balkans, and to point out the possibility of their comprehensive application in the future.