Balkan as Metaphor

Balkan as Metaphor

Between Globalization and Fragmentation

Edited by Dušan I. Bjelić

Pioneering essays on the idea of the Balkan as a body of knowledge and a cultural metaphor.





Pioneering essays on the idea of the Balkan as a body of knowledge and a cultural metaphor.

Balkan. Somewhere between a tragedy and a myth, a place and a condition, the term is perhaps best understood as a metaphor. It has been used and abused in academia by proponents of opposing political views. Multiculturalism has appropriated it, as have postmodernism and postcommunism. It is used pejoratively to refer to excessive specialization and nostalgically to refer to Europe's lost people—its wild warriors and passionate geniuses. This book explores the idea of the Balkan as metaphor and the meaning of Balkan identity in the context of contemporary culture. Focusing on Balkanism both as a body of knowledge and as the critical study of that discourse, this book does for the Balkans what Edward Said's Orientalism did for "the Orient."The sixteen authors, most of whom were born and educated in the Balkans, apply the Western academic tools of postmodernism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, and critical multiculturalism to topics as varied as the rhetoric of Balkanization, the war in Kosovo, Western demonization and erotization of the Serbs, Balkan film, human rights legislation, Byzantinism, the vampire as an image of Balkan violence, envy of the political and moral capital of victimhood, the tendency of the Balkan psyche toward depression, Serbian machismo and homosexuality, and wartime rape. The book both lays the groundwork for a new field of study and serves as an act of resistance against the many forms of representation that break the Balkans into fragments such as NATO army bases and digital maps in order to wire them into the global market.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262025249 398 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262524483 398 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


Dušan I. Bjelić

Dušan I. Bjelic is Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Southern Maine.


  • This challenging anthology is based on the premise that geographic identity conveys a rich and revealing intellectual coherence... recommended.

    Library Journal


  • This volume's greatest attraction is the way it so wonderfully illustrates the Balkans' baroque complexity, to some the region's insurmountable handicap and to others, including myself, its inimitable charm. Focused largely on philosophical and cultural studies, the contributors make use of a variety of approaches, thanks to the diversity of their backgrounds. Taken as a whole, this volume is learned, erudite, and sometimes contradictory, as behooves a collective work. And it is, thankfully, always passionate as well.

    Maria Todorova

    Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and author of Imagining the Balkans

  • This is a book of quite extraordinary range, depth, and topical importance which is sure to gain a wide readership within and beyond the Anglo-American academic community. I have no doubt that it will provoke some intensive (even heated) debate both among specialist scholars of Balkan history and in the wider academic, political, and journalistic community. It should certainly take its place as required reading for students in cultural studies and related disciplines where the postmodern 'turn' has often gone along with a tendency to seek refuge in facile slogans and sweeping pseudo-historical claims. It is just this kind of safely orthodox 'radical' thinking that the contributors set out to challenge.

    Christopher Norris

    Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy, University of Cardiff, Wales

  • Balkan as Metaphor marks the emergence of a powerful new approach to the study of Southeastern Europe. By turns polemical and lyrical, the essays in this volume also hold a mirror up to the West. Few dynamics defined the 1990s more symbolically than the one between these two regions. This book documents the imprint of that relationship on the contemporary intellectual life of the Balkans.

    Laura Secor

    Deputy Editor, The American Prospect, and author of numerous articles about the Balkans