The Balkans Between Cliché and the European Future

Thursday, 27 May 2010, 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Vorlesung zum Gedächtnis an Christine von Kohl

For the last two centuries the Balkans have been at the center of international relations, eclipsed lately only by the Near East, of which they were once deemed to be a part. At the beginning of the 20th century they were transformed from an innocuous name into a powerful derogatory metaphor that softened with time into a weaker but still negative cliché, to blow up fully again in the 1990s.
After analyzing Europe and the Near East as analytical concepts, the lecture focuses on the Balkans as the posited intermediary space between them. Having demonstrated the limitations and shortcomings of the conceptual apparatus built around the notions of civilizations, cultural circles, intermediacy and indeterminacy, it introduces the category of historical legacy. The case is made for the advantages in utilizing the concept of historical legacy as an analytical tool over “path dependence,” as well as over more structural categories of analysis, such as borders, space, and territoriality, because it allows to articulate more clearly the dynamism and fluidity of historical change.
Finally, practical issues of the relationship between Europe, the Balkans and the Near East in recent years are addressed, both analytically and politically.

Chair: Vedran Dzihic

Maria Todorova is Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is well known for her work concerning the history of the Balkans. Her groundbreaking work, Imagining the Balkans deals with the region’s inconsistent (but usually negative) image inside Western culture, as well as with the paradoxes of cultural reference and its assumptions. In it, she develops a theory of “Balkanism”, similar to Edward Said’s “Orientalism”.

Christine von Kohl, born 1923 in Berlin, came to Austria in 1960 as a foreign news correspondent. From 1968 to 1985 she lived in Belgrade where she worked for various media corporations. Back in Vienna she served as a counsellor for Balkan issues for the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and founded the “Verein der Flüchtlinge und Vertriebenen aus Bosnien-Herzegowina in Österreich” as well as the “Kulturni Centar”. Together with her husband Wolfgang Libal, a profound expert on the Balkans, she published several books on politics and culture of South Eastern Europe. Christine von Kohl died on January 23, 2009.

Eine Initiative der Nachlassverwalter Herbert Maurer und Vedran Dzihic, in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Center for European Integration Strategies (CEIS), dem Magistrat der Stadt Wien und dem IWM.