Between Europe and the Balkans: Mapping Slovenia and Croatia's “Return to Europe” in the 1990s
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This essay traces the ongoing discursive processes through which two former Yugoslav states — Croatia and Slovenia — framed their so-called “exit from the Balkans” and “return to Europe” throughout the 1990s. Applying Maria Todorova's framework of “Balkanism” to these two cases, the essay examines how leaders sought recognition as belonging to Europe, or Central Europe, by defining their respective national identities in opposition to Balkan or Yugoslav ones. What distinguishes Balkanism from other critical traditions such as Orientalism is that the Balkans are located in a distinctively liminal position: at the same time part of Europe as well as its antithetical periphery, the “other” within. This in-between position can often lead to contradictory identity constructions, whereby an insistence on concretizing one's Europeanness coincides with a certain awareness that this European status is never ontologically secure. The essay concludes by considering ways in which the Balkans can be re-imagined, reassembling diverse fragments of Balkan identity into a site for positive engagement and critique.
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