Beyond Mosque, Church, and State
Alternative Narratives of the Nation in the Balkans
Journalists and policy-makers in the West have often assumed that the religious and ethno-national heterogeneity of the Balkans is the underlying reason for the numerous problems the area has faced throughout the twentieth century. The multiple and turbulent political transitions in the area, the dynamics of the interaction between Christianity and Islam, the contradictory and constantly shifting nationality policies, and the fluctuating identities of the diverse populations continue to be seen as major challenges to the stability of the region.
By exploring the development of intricate religious, linguistic, and national dynamics in a variety of case studies throughout the Balkans, this volume demonstrates the existence of alternatives and challenges to nationalism in the area. The authors analyze a variety of national, non-national, and anti-national(ist) encounters in four areas—Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania—traditionally seen as "hot-beds" of nationalist agitation and tension resulting from their populations' religious or ethno-national diversity. In their entirety, the contributions in this volume chart a more complex picture of the national dynamics.
The authors recognize the existence of national tensions both in historical perspective and in contemporary times, but also suggest the possibility of different paths to the nation that did not involve violence but allowed for national accommodation and reconciliation.
About the Authors
Theodora Dragostinova is Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University.
Yana Hashamova is Professor of Slavic and Chair of the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures at Ohio State University.
"The introduction to the book opens with a mise en scène from the early 1900s in which a British journalist expresses amazement with the many, often changing nationalities that inhabit the Balkans. The co-editors/co-authors, Theodora Dragostinova and Yana Hashamova, point to the paradox of such diversity owing to 'the stubborn inability of people [in the region] to recognize and share their common history and culture'. As the introduction ends, readers are poised to encounter fresh perspectives on how ethno-religious, linguistic, and national differences have been legislated, performed, enacted, and amended by subjects, citizens, and political parties, and from topdown and bottom-up political actors in empires and (nation-)states. Special attention is paid to processes of negotiation between religions and between official discourse and everyday practices as they expose 'the existence of alternatives and challenges to nationalism in the area'."—Canadian Slavonic Papers
"This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Maria Todorova's Imagining the Balkans (1997), a seminal study that explored the ontology of the Balkans and elucidated the ways in which an otherwise neutral geographic appellation was gradually transformed into an insidious stereotype and set of popular myths. Her work unleashed a procession of studies of "Balkanism," or the Balkans as construct, which collectively succeeded in laying to rest these myths. The book under review fits this mold and asks us once again to question the traditional Western narrative vis-à-vis the Balkans: namely, as a region characterized by endemic ethnic and religious violence. All in all, the chapters in this book are well written and thoughtfully considered. The book's interdisciplinary approach is also one of its strongest attributes."—Journal of Church and State
"Beyond Mosque, Church, and State is a useful resource for scholars engaged in research on nationalism, identity, memory and culture in post-Ottoman Balkan states, as it invites creating space for wider engagements with nations and nationalism outside more traditional and top-down understandings of these phenomena. An edited volume like Beyond Mosque, Church, and State can provide a wealth of varied knowledge across an extended timespan – from the fall of Constantinople to the most recent parliamentary elections in Bulgaria – that shows how valuable and persistent alternative (and accordingly under-researched) conceptualizations of the nation and the state are in times of social upheaval."—Nationalism and Ethnic Politics
"The chapters in this volume vividly show how important intellectuals and other elites have always been, since the formative stages of nation-building and until today. The authors take the reader along the path that connects the Muslim and Christian communities in the Balkans since the late Ottoman Empire to their integration—or their desire to integrate—into the EU. What becomes obvious is how prejudices and stereotypes have always had a significant influence on the shape of a nation's policies."—Südosteuropa
"The volume's chapters demonstrate the processes through which several agents of the Balkan nation-states have engulfed a multitude of local identities in order to obtain the much-cherished objective of national conformity or homogeneity."—Slavic Review
"This collection, written by a group of accomplished Balkanologists, is a welcome contribution to the growing literature questioning the conventional narrative of ethno-national and religious violence in the Balkans by stressing the complexity and fluidity of national and religious allegiances. In a few case studies centered on Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia, the authors offer valuable readings on the different ways society and the state cope with heterogeneity. The principal value of the volume lies in its consistent interdisciplinarity, including insights from history, literature, political science, sociology, linguistics, and musicology."
"This fascinating volume delivers the deathblow to persistent stereotypes of Balkan violence and victimhood. The authors not only deliver the alternative narratives of the nation promised in the title, but their rich case materials, both historical and contemporary, force us to rethink how we interpret official and mainstream discourses of the nation as well. As such, it is a must read for anyone interested in the Balkans or nationalism anywhere else in the world."—Gerald Creed
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