The “Other” Europe: Balkanism and Postcolonialism

The “Other” Europe: Balkanism and Postcolonialism

Using Western reports on recent events in the Balkans as an evolving case study, this section will look at the discourse of the ethnic Other in light of Shaw’s interest in the institutions evolving at the margins. Without measuring Shaw too harshly against his shadow, it will explore limiting biases and discourses of exclusion.

Balkanism picture

Much more than geography separates the cultures of eastern and western Europe. Immediately notable are the East’s legacy of a pervasive Orthodox Christianity, a longstanding Islamic presence (dating back to the first millennia, C.E.) and the reversal of nod and shake accompanying the language of negation and affirmation. At first glance, the systems of the most overt cultural influence in Western Europe are similarly European. In Eastern Europe, however, initial appearances identify a more pronounced Turkic/Middle-Eastern and Asian influence. For Western Europe, these distinctions marks the Eastern states of Europe with a kind of otherness; an apartness that is suspect, reducible, and that smacks of dissimilarity. In many ways, Arms and the Man records the history of these prejudices; is an account is a Western account of Europe at its easterly boundaries, the Balkans.

Taking its name from a range of mountains that extend eastward from Serbia to the easterly edge of Bulgaria, the Balkans is a peninsular area of Southeastern Europe made up of Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and the nations of the former Yugoslavia: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and sometimes Slovenia (increasingly more often associated with Central Europe). Geographers often include Greece and the European edge of Turkey among the Balkan nations, but political references often exclude these two.

Ethnically, culturally, linguistically and religiously varied, the Balkans represents one of the greatest concentrations of diverse populations on the continent. Follow the link to a map representing the region currently:
http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/balkans.htm

In Shaw’s time, the political Balkans looked quite different:
http://maps.omniatlas.com/europe/18940104/

But the ethnography was very similar to what it is today:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Balkan_map_1895_Richard_Andree.jpg

Below is a more current map depicting ethnic distribution (note the diversity as compared to some of the more northerly, eastern European countries:
http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/europe/ethnic_groups_eastern_europe.jpg

The Balkans: Europe’s Subaltern
Review the material linked below. In each, you will find a series of discussions challenging Western Europe’s lens on the Balkans.

Read the introduction and first chapter of Tchaprazov’s dissertation, linked below:
http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/54868/1/Tchaprazov_umn_0130E_10343.pdf

Preface to Vesna Goldsworthy’s ‘Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination’: Read 113 -16
http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Flch9xUioAcC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=shaw+balkans+arms+and+the+man&ots=rgje5enyPK&sig=P8_l8TGg5qT3C-YEoffRl3eViAA#v=onepage&q=shaw%20balkans%20arms%20and%20the%20man&f=false

Richard Byrne’s ‘Shaw’s Balkans: Constellation’s Arms and the Man’
http://richbyrne.blogspot.ca/2011/10/shaws-balkans-constellations-arms-and.html

MINDS ON ACTIVITY:
The practice of post-colonial criticism resonates with many of the concerns of cultural studies, but it also assumes a unique perspective on literature and politics that provokes its own dialogue. It is interested in literature produced by colonial perspectives and the responses of those whose ideas and mores were similarly colonized or appropriated as a function of the process of documenting colonized spaces. Each of the works above is a challenge to Western Europe’s intellectual colonization of notions of Eastern Europe, in particular, the Balkans. As the post-colonial lens interrogates issues of power, economics, politics, religion, and culture, it is also interested in how these issues work in relation to authoritative histories and their impact on hegemony.

Return to Arms and the Man and make a list of the ways in which the Balkans are referenced. Take note of comments on politics, daily life and values. Consider also how the characters are presented: their preoccupations, their attitudes, social dynamics, etc.

Now create a second list that weighs them Shaw’s representation against those of the critics above. What do they challenge about his version of the region? How might rethinking the play from this standpoint alter our view of the Balkan Peninsula, then and now?

POSSIBLE EXTENSIONS:
With a partner, or on your own, develop, write and produce a short comic play that re-presents a group that is often stereotyped.

Research the recent social history of the Balkans. Selecting key events in that history write a monolog for a modern day Louka, recounting her experiences through the war and beyond.

Useful Terms and Important Historical Events Relevant to Arms and the Man

The Balkans
The Balkan Peninsula, popularly referred to as the Balkans, is a geographical region of Southeast Europe. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch from the east of Bulgaria to the very east of Serbia.

Hegemony
Hegemony is derived from Ancient Greek and originally meant: “leadership, a leading the way, a going first;” also “the authority or sovereignty of one city-state over a number of others” (from www.etymonline.com). In critical usage, it applies to the method of imperial domination that subsumes all other cultures, ethos and ideologies.

Serbo-Bulgarian War, (Nov. 14, 1885–March 3, 1886), military conflict between Serbia and Bulgaria, which demonstrated the instability of the Balkan peace settlement imposed by the Congress of Berlin (Treaty of Berlin, July 1878).

Both Serbia and Bulgaria felt that the Treaty of Berlin should have awarded them more extensive territories at the Ottoman Empire’s expense. Under the Berlin settlement, Eastern Rumelia had been separated from the enlarged Bulgarian state created by the Treaty of San Stefano (March 1878) and had been returned to the Ottoman Empire. But on Sept. 18, 1885, Bulgarian nationalists in Eastern Rumelia mounted a coup and declared the province’s unification with Bulgaria. Serbia was opposed to this strengthening of its rival, Bulgaria. After the coup, the Serbian king, Milan Obrenović IV, who also hoped that an aggressive foreign policy would relieve his domestic problems, demanded that Bulgaria cede some of its territory to Serbia. In spite of active international diplomatic efforts to discourage him, Milan declared war on Bulgaria on Nov. 14, 1885. Although a swift Serbian victory was expected, Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria won the decisive battle at Slivnitsa (Nov. 17–19, 1885), defeating the invading Serbs and subsequently pursuing them back into Serbia. He accepted an armistice only when Austria-Hungary threatened to enter the war in Serbia’s defense.

The Treaty of Bucharest (March 3, 1886), which concluded the war, reestablished the prewar Serbo-Bulgarian border but left Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia united. Milan’s position was damaged beyond repair by the defeat; he abdicated in 1889, passing the Serbian crown to a regency in the name of his son Alexander (from, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/535402/Serbo-Bulgarian-War).

The Subaltern
A term uses in post-colonial studies and critical theory, the subaltern refers to those who are socially, politically, ethnically and/ or geographically outside of hegemony. Largely shaped by the work of Antonio Gramsci, the subalterns characteristically have no authoritative voice. They are left out of history and do not register on the political spectrum. Recently, subalterity has confronted hegemony with competing narratives punctuated by oppression, discrimination and inequality.

———————————————————
Using Western reports on recent events in the Balkans as an evolving case study, this section will look at the discourse of the ethnic Other in light of Shaw’s interest in the institutions evolving at the margins. Without measuring Shaw too harshly against his shadow, it will explore limiting biases and discourses of exclusion.

Useful Terms

The Balkans

The Balkan Peninsula, popularly referred to as the Balkans, is a geographical region of Southeast Europe. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch from the east of Bulgaria to the very east of Serbia.

Click here for an ethnographical map of the Balkans in the 19th Century.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Digitizing literary resources for Canada’s students