Narrating Post/Communism: Colonial Discourse and Europe's Borderline Civilization (BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies)
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The transition of communist Eastern Europe to capitalist democracy post-1989 and in the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars has focused much scholarly attention - in history, political science and literature - on the fostering of new identities across Eastern European countries in the absence of the old communist social and ideological frameworks. This book examines an important, but hitherto largely neglected, part of this story: the ways in which the West has defined its own identity and ideals via the demonization of communist regimes and Eastern European cultures as a totalitarian, barbarian and Orientalist "other". It describes how old Orientalist prejudices resurfaced during the Cold War period, and argues that the establishment of this discourse helped to justify transitions of Eastern European societies to market capitalism and liberal democracy, suppressing Eastern Europe’s communist histories and legacies, whilst perpetuating its dependence on the West as a source of its own sense of identity. It argues that this process of Orientalization was reinforced by the literary narratives of Eastern European and Russian anti-communist dissidents and exiles, including Vladimir Nabokov, Czeslaw Milosz and Milan Kundera, in their attempts to present themselves as native, Eastern European experts and also emancipate themselves – and their homelands – as civilized, enlightened and Westernized. It goes on to suggest that the greatest potential for recognizing and overcoming this self-Orientalization lies in post-communist literary and visual narratives, with their themes of disappointment in the social, economic, or political changes brought on by the transitions, challenge of the unequal discursive power in East-West dialogues where the East is positioned as a disciple or a mimic of the West, and the various guises of nostalgia for communism.
involve unassuming American expats in pyramid schemes: the weakness of the legally sanctioned business relations is exposed when the mafia and Girshkin invent PravaInvest, a perfectly acceptable business simulacrum, including an advertising campaign with ‘‘glossy brochures’’ featuring ‘‘plenty of environmental stuff . . . holistic centers and Reiki clinics’’ to appeal to the idealistic Americans (Shteyngart 2002: 190). The Groundhog’s appeal to Girshkin to teach them ‘‘‘Americanisms’ and
human rights: ‘‘Is not this the only hope in our global era – to see some internationally acknowledged force as a guarantee that all countries will respect a certain minimum of ethical (and, hopefully, also health, social, ecological) standards?’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999a). Positively valorizing the concept of Empire disˇ izˇek does not question the very establishment cussed by Hardt and Negri, Z of the right to intervene, therefore. Rather, the problem lies in the occluded interests of the force that
‘‘at bottom, simply an extension of a census-style, identitarian conception of ethnicity’’ (1998: 131). To borrow Anderson’s phrase, wherever Ugresˇic´ ‘‘happens to end up,’’ she remains a ‘‘countable’’ Croatian (1998: 131). This tendency to focus on Ugresˇic´’s ethnic identity, in Croatia, or ethnic stereotype, abroad, has indeed graced numerous writings about her work. In 1992, the Croatian magazine Globus published an attack on Ugresˇic´ and a number of other Croatian authors for attending a
Enlightenment is comparable to Kundera’s and throughout his oeuvre he develops a veritable myth of origins, establishing the Enlightenment as a source of all the positive cultural and historical values in Europe. A fellow admirer of Voltaire, Montaigne, and Diderot, Grass laments the corruption of what he sees as the original spirit of the Enlightenment: ‘‘human capacity for comedy and therefore, victory’’ in spite of the ‘‘horrifying social conditions’’ (Grass and Bourdieu 2000: 26). The noble
ahistoricity, or homogeneity of Said’s methodology in outlining an Orientalist discourse, I want to stress that, although I look at a particular historical range and notice similar patterns of cultural stereotyping during this time (some of which certainly echo earlier historical patterns), I do not Introduction 9 argue that there is a uniform or uninterrupted narrative of Eastern European Orientalism. This is also one of the reasons I consider the literary and visual texts I analyze as