Tis the season. The number of prospects on the funding and calls page is ever increasing. Check in periodically if you are looking for funding, and send me your calls if you are looking for responses.
The first item is up on the upcoming conferences page. A conference on corruption for doctoral students, expenses covered. If you are planning a conference and want me to add your announcement to the page, send it along!
One of the curiosities that emerged from the terrorist attacks in two places in Norway on 22 July comes out of the odd manifesto (document is an enormous PDF full of nonsense) that the killer produced and distributed shortly before the crime. In fact it might be hard to call it a manifesto: it has some original text, some cribbed and slightly altered text, and then whole articles and essays lifted from the work of an assemblage of wackos who would be familiar to people who follow the extreme right press and blog world out of commitment or a perverse desire for entertainment, but to nobody else.
I am not sure that I recommend reading the document; it’s less well crafted and reasoned than a below-average undergraduate essay. The fellow talks quite a lot about things he does not know about. He has a long passage on cultural conflicts in American universities (although he never even attended a Norwegian one). He has an extended discussion of the works of Teodor Adorno (which he clearly has not read). He has an overview of the history of the Ottoman Empire (which does not even reach the level of Miroljub Jevtić, who is at least funny). But most disconcerting to the več-nam-je-bilo-sranja-preko-glave crowd, he has the revelation that his path to violent idiocy began with his shock at the Kosovo bombing campaign in 1999. So to the other sets of concerns he understands badly, he added the history of the Balkans, and his main, heavily quoted and cribbed source on that (as well as on some theological topics!) is one Srđa Trifković. I have not done word counts, but this Trifković may be the single most heavily cited author in the manifesto, if your count excludes whole articles that are reproduced and works by people who write under pseudonyms they got from their local Fjord dealership.
Now, if you are familiar with the scholarly literature on the topics that Srđa Trifković writes about then you have quite possibly never heard of Trifković. He got a doctorate in 1990 but published his last peer-reviewed work in 1993. His work is not read by students, cited by scholars or reviewed in academic journals. His connection with universities is tenuous: he had a brief period as an adjunct at a private Catholic institution in Texas, and had been on the faculty of Rose Hill College, an abortive effort at Orthodox fundamentalist higher education that admitted 26 students in 1997 and 1998 and closed never having awarded a degree. He identifies himself as a visiting professor at the Faculty of Political Science in Banja Luka, which means that he comes for three-day visits to give lectures on the “theory of foreign policy” that fourth-year students are obligated to listen to (he is not listed as a member of the faculty, but then neither is anybody else as the page is nonexistent).
But if you followed diaspora politics in the 1990s you knew about him. He was the representative of Radovan Karadžić to the international press and the representative of Republika Srpska in London (he preferred to call himself a “Balkan affairs analyst with close links to the Bosnian Serbs”). He hung on in the Region for a bit, doing a stint as an advisor to the convicted war criminal Biljana Plavšić and another for the unindicted co-conspirator Vojislav Koštunica. He offered his interpretations of things like prophets and swords as a defence witness to ICTY in 2003 and 2008.
Mostly, though, he got involved in larger propaganda campaigns. He hung out at an institute that was named for an old James Garner television vehicle that declared as its mission “to preserve the institutions of the Christian West”. He hung out at another institute named after a poet who, they say, “gave his life in the fight to free Balkan Christians from Islamic rule” (actually he died of fever, but whatever). He put out a couple of books seeking to persuade people that civilisation is fundamentally threatened by Islam (let him summarise his own argument, no?). He found the time to praise dear Mr Griffin and the charming folk at the BNP.
If you don’t follow the weirdness on the far right then all of this will have been under your radar (or of no interest to you, like the recipes for nostalgia-tinged home cooking that may very well be at the back of the weekly KKK newsletter). It is all a way of participating in the activity of the fringe folks who say Europe is turning into “Eurabia” and that all those seemingly nice immigrants who are doing all your work for you and serving you delicious kebab have a secret plan to reduce you to “dhimmitude“, which may sound like a charming term from the lexicon of Donovan but is actually meant to make you feel certain that living around people with a different nationality and religion is sinister. There are some well known outlets for this sort of thing, which I will not bother naming or linking.
So there is the connection: these are the waters into which Mr Trifković jumped, which Mr Breivik guzzled, and which people outside of that pond probably notice fairly rarely, maybe only on those occasions when unpopular political parties like BNP manage to make their ideas part of the programme of parties with supporters, like the Tories and Labour. It contributes to building an environment of hostility in which it was reasonable to expect that somebody, sooner or later, would feel inspired to commit the kind of crime that was eventually committed in Norway.
Does his personal history and prominence in the “thinking” of a mass killer make Trifković an accessory to a crime? Probably not in any way that a court would understand it. It would also be difficult to say that it damages his reputation, because his reputation is what it is.
For his part Trifković excuses himself with an analogy, claiming “by the same logic, it was the Beatles who inspired Charles Manson to kill Sharon Tate, because he found in their texts a coded invitation to that crime”. The difference, of course, is that the members of the Beatles had an artistic, literary and even a political profile distinguishable from the criminal act — not a whole history in its cloud of associations. As he told the court (p. 13903) in the Stakić case, “sweeping generalisations have a certain quality to them of reflecting an overall reality”.
I am slowly beginning to fill up the funding and calls for participation/papers page. Send me stuff if you have it!
Amazing scientific finding of the day: the periphery of Europe does not have a monopoly on communal violence! Secret: we already knew that. So getting over the urge to pretend to be shocked that there is a fairly long and diverse history of riots west of the Danube as well, how is it being perceived in The Region? Well, let’s have a look at everybody’s favourite source of the vox kafanskus, remarks that people with funny pseudonyms make on news articles. How about a small sample of two? This one from Pink92, and this one from Index. Some themes that jump out of a quick perusal:
The “false democracy” key. The first set of themes is probably the most obvious and least interesting: the people who have observed that democracy does not appear to function perfectly well, from the ones saying “well, what’s with that democracy?” or dismissing democracy as “just a phrase that is pulled over people’s eyes”, on down the line to the point that “something like this could never happen in Russia or China”. There might be something to say about this approach, but all that comes to me is, okay, if that makes you happy … it makes me happy to move on.
The „ja tebi, ti meni” (JTTM) key. There is always pleasure to be had in the suffering of others, right? But what kind of pleasure? I think I have identified three kinds.
JTTM-1: Intervention for me, intervention for you. This one is usually expressed through sarcastic remarks.
“Send EULEX over, until the opposing sides reach a compromise”.
“What is NATO waiting for? They have bombarded Tripoli enough, now it is London’s turn. First the hospitals, then the bridges, then the headquarters of the television stations BBC, SKY and CNN. Civilians must be protected! Human rights before all!”
“Gaddafi has recognised the London hooligans as the legitimate government of theUK. NATO has begun to hit Cameron’s residence. The EU has given him a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country with one suitcase”.
JTTM-2: How nice that you are as bad as we are. Bad conditions somewhere else make conditions at home seem a little bit better.
“It makes things a little bit easier for me to hear about this, not that I am pleased, but it is easier for me because Serbia is not the only country that has thugs and hooligans”.
“The English government should offer its citizens a solution for their unemployment and ever increasing poverty, especially among the minority communities. They should eliminate racial discrimination in all parts of the society. And finally, they should refrain from excessive use of force against the legitimate demands of their citizens. If they do not do that, then NOTHING WILL HAPPEN. After all, it’s not Serbia”.
“I think that Croatia should delay its entry into the European Union until those savages in Britain are set right. Either they should be sorted out or Croatia will not enter the EU until Britain is expelled!”
JTTM-3: Svidja mi se da vam ne bude prijatno. The bad stuff is not a reflection on us, just on you.
“Really, in the European Union, and in Great Britain, it is not all milk and honey?”
“Peckham is burning! I hope that Del Boy is all right. He is one of the few good qualities of the former empire that still fantasises about medieval princes and princesses”.
“England is getting it back for the negative policy they have carried out toward Croatia”.
The “svi smo mi pomalo Oswald Spengler” key. Street violence is just another sign that Europe is declining, and no hope should be placed in it.
“Without any bad intentions, the way things are going we will be glad that we do not live in the West in the coming days”.
“The whole EU is slowly sinking into chaos and crisis. The way of life imposed by Western civilisation, which can be described by the words ‘spolja gladac a iznutra jadac’ is breaking down, and all of the artificially suppressed frustrations, nationalism and existential crises are coming to the surface”.
“This all happened already between 1929 and 1932. Greedy capitalists reduced wages so that they could enrich themselves more and more quickly, but they forgot that then poor people would not have the money to buy their nice expensive products. Eighty years has passed since that crisis and now everybody who survived it has passed on, and again there has appeared a caste of ‘managers’ who think that they are the smartest people in the world, but they have forgotten that history repeats itself”.
“What kinds of revolutionaries and avengers for 400 years of oppression are these? These guys smash the window of the Bang & Olufsen shop and steal high-tech products. What kind of just revolutionaries are these? They are ordinary chicken thieves. This kind of generation brings this kind of revolution”.
The „svi smo mi pomalo Breivik” key. Like Spengler, only more racist and anti-immigrant.
“Criminals and hooligans are the same everywhere. Some domestic media describe them as ‘young demonstrators’. In fact we are talking about people who do not want to work, who live off benefits. Britain and all the other EU countries are getting the boomerang from the policy of liberal entry into the country”.
“The English once claimed they were the “Empire on which the sun never sets”. Well, now they have got coming to them from all sides the people they colonised by force and fire, and they are destroying Britain from the inside. Well, let them”.
“Name me one other time when Western civilisation was a) so far in debts that it was sinking, 2) so full of corruption, 3) so full of immigrants, 4) without an external enemy that would unite people in those societies”.
“What is happening is controlled violence that will be used as a pretext for a battle against immigrants and the multicultural society. The English people are not so foolish like us that they do all these things as improvisation and without calculating”.
There are hundreds of comments, of course, and many more articles and sources than I have used for this very brief discussion. So think of these as a few themes that became clearly visible after one reading.
Is it possible to draw any conclusions from this very small sample? I can suggest a couple. One is that the experience of international tutelage produces a situation in which the patronised folks enjoy seeing the patronisers suffer. Another is that there is an obvious sensitivity to the fact that some states are seen as appropriate intervenors and others as appropriate objects of intervention. And maybe the last two would be that 1) those obligatory courses in cod-Marxism were not ignored by everyone, regardless of what they tell you, and 2) one thing the West still exports very successfully is its dumbass racist ideas.
Well, maybe it’s the questions they are asked. If a journalist were to ask me about the “psychological health of the nation“ I would have a difficult time answering, just like I would have a difficult time answering a question about the “hands of the fish” or the “cuisine in bus stations”. Maybe Dr Zoran Milivojević just wanted to be polite and satisfy the interviewer. That would be understandable, admirable even. But actually it seems more like he was waiting for the chance to develop this.
Right then, so what is his diagnosis of Serbian society?
The first problem is “hypercivilisation”. Apparently after a long period of lawlessness, now the ruling groups “want to move Serbia to Scandinavia, which is impossible”. Geographically this cannot be contested, of course. But really he is talking about something they call “mentalities”, and contends that “we have become collectively stupid” because of unsatisfied political hopes, and this is supposed to have an effect on the readiness to accept legal regulation. So he is not really talking about barriers of physical geography, but insisting instead that the reason that Serbia can’t be Sweden is that folks haven’t got the lingonberries for it.
The second problem is, well, I can’t say for sure what it is but I can wonder at the sexual metaphors through which it is expressed. See, the problem with Europe is that it is a “continually older and uglier bride” (you okay there, Doctor?). But apparently she is rich (are we seeing a pattern?). And she “constantly blackmails and humiliates” hopeful Serbia, who is of course “a young man from the provinces”. So rustic young Serbia should pursue instead a promising young lady who is less of a snob, like “Russia, China or India”. They’ll get rich too, and don’t care what he did back on the farm as long as he can make a decent mućkalica. Did you see what he was getting at? Good, neither did I. I think maybe he was nationalising and transgendering Anna Nicole Smith.
Moving on, then. So why have people become insensitive? You already know the answer, it is “because of the great pressure of massive historical events”. These have produced two groups of people, one with “a hypertrophied love for themselves and their nation” and the other that “thinks that it will please Europe by spitting on their own nation”. And they do not like one another, they should try to emulate Dr M who evidently likes one better than the other but is an educated, tolerant fellow. But you see, they can’t. Partly this is their own fault, because they have a “desire for ever more information” but at the same time they “escape from reality”. But it is also partly the fault of the politicians, because (get this!) they do not understand that “Serbs love to be deceived and to be told what they want to hear by politicians, and not that different politicians tell them different things”. But since people don’t get that (!) they get depressed.
There is the diagnosis. There has to be a cure, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, “we have to start to value ourselves”. On the other hand it will not help, because “it is possible to be happy even in Serbia. But, in the Balkans happiness is, so to speak, forbidden”. Take that to the pharmacy and see what happens.
Was the good Doctor improvising for the satisfaction of the journalists? If he was, then was also improvising in 2003 when he described the same set of ideas to Glas javnosti and told them that the social situation had been the same “since the time of Tsar Dušan”. Just so we know two things: 1) Stefan Uroš IV Dušan Nemanjić ruled from 1331 to 1355, and 2) although 14th century social psychological literature is thin, social historians think that conditions were different then. Where I live, the health campaign posters in the buses tell people they should consult their GP if symptoms last longer than two weeks.
Dr Milivojević finishes off with a fine description of the West (of what?) and “their news, in which you can still hear that Serbs are awful”. But you see, Doctor, the news does not tell us who is awful, we have to draw those conclusions from the facts that are reported. You are the psychologist, it is your job to tell us who is awful. Or else it is not, but who pays attention to these distinctions?
Update: Oh, dear, it looks like Dr Milivojević has some thoughts on the killings in Norway as well. There is a broad analysis of his statement and some his other ideas by Rastislav Dinić in Peščanik.
I’ve updated the news and comment links page. Anyone with more linguistic competence want to help with the sarcastic remarks on the Kosovo and Macedonia lists?
Everyone could do with a little help from outside, even if they are making arguments about sovereignty. So the intellectuals in Serbia who want support in the ongoing border conflict with Kosovo are seeking it from Russia, and asked for it in a letter to the Russian PM Vladimir Putin. What they want, concretely, is for Russia to propose a resolution in the Security Council on the condition of Serbs of Kosovo.
But the way they argue their case — such a colourful alternative to the measured language of diplomacy! Kosovo is “the occupied portion of the Serbian state”. KFOR is “the camouflaged mission of the NATO phalanx”. Kosovo’s declaration of independence is “the jubilee of the Munich agreement”. Their opponents are “modern usurers, advocates of the new-old Euro-Atlantic order”. Faced with challenges like that, they place their hopes in “Russia, which, in conquering itself found its soul. And the meaning of the traditional philosophy of the Everyman”. Well, how could Mr Putin resist?
Srećom, the letter is not a document coming from Serbia’s foreign ministry or government. As Miloš Vasić explains, those officials appear to be letting the provocateurs do their publicity work while actually moving toward an agreement. So who are the signers, then? Unfortunately they are listed in alphabetical order, so the traditional way of identifying the first signatory as the author will not work here. But we can put it this way: of 21 people who signed, nine identify themselves as coming from the literary world — writers, philologists, literary critics and theorists. Five identify themselves as lawyers. There are three medical doctors, and one each from history, journalism, economics, and mathematics. Five of the 21 sign with the title “akademik”, indicating that they are members of SANU. So basically we are talking about a generation of intellectuals who found their moment of glory in the national hysteria of the 1990s. A few of the names are well known: Smilja Avramov, Vojislav Koštunica, Vasilije Krestić, Kosta Čavoški.
Now, let’s make a wild guess and say that the Russian government is not extremely likely to set its UN delegation into action on receipt of a letter from some novelists who have political connections in a different country and their friends. Nor are governments from the US and EU too likely to jump up and take notice at the fact that they have been described with some intemperate but fascinating phrases. Probably the letter is directed to somebody else. In the first place it is directed to the Serbian government to caution them against negotiating too seriously, and in the second place to the people they call “usurers” (I’m a foreigner, but I had to go to the dictionary for “lihvari” and still have not guessed why it matters whether they are “moderni” — are these terms anybody uses?) to remind them that they have opposition. But it could be that it is directed primarily to the public, to tell them hey, we figures from the past are still around, and hey, somebody takes the idea of a spiritual alliance with Russia seriously.
This sort of thing is easy enough to ridicule, just by pointing out that the signers appear to have found themselves in the wrong century or that they should have at their age learned to distinguish florid phrases from argument. That could be a mistake, though. Do we understand letters like this as being about content or context? If you see the role of the country in the world as forging grand historic alliances and embodying traditional philosophical concepts, there is rhetoric here that could appeal to you. If you see the role of the state as making arrangements to assure a peaceful life for its citizens and a chance to live by human activities like work and exchange, not so much.
You might say that it would be better to put up some content to comment on before posting a comments policy. But then, why not set the framework first? One of the things that bothered me a little bit on the previous blog, where I did not moderate comments, was that the kind of discussion I hoped to encourage did not happen very often. This meant that much of the time I hoped to spend in exchange with people (some of whom, naturally, would agree with me and some of whom would disagree) got spent instead on irrelevant comments, weird racists and other ists, stalkers, and repeated posters of wonderful findings about the Second World War. If that happens again, I expect I will lose interest in blogging again fairly quickly. So I have put up some guidelines. They are meant to be constructive and not overly threatening, and if they have the desired effect then they will encourage people who want to discuss to join in, and people who want some other thing to bugger off.
The first East Ethnia ran for about four years on Blogspot between 2004 and 2008. Then I got a bit too busy and a little bored with it. The old archive is still there if anyone is terribly curious.
Being blogless for three years was just fine, actually. I became accustomed to living in this very odd country. I finished a book. I spent much time with my family and dog, and sadly also much time dealing with such exciting things as banks and landlords. But at the same time, there were a few things that motivated me to try again. Those were:
1) Nobody else was really providing the things that I thought East Ethnia could provide. Not that there are not a lot of fine sites out there (one day I will complete the links page and you can see what they are), but none with just those concerns, at least in English.
2) I like to make remarks about things! The social networks offer a nice way of doing this, but they do not allow for the kind of flexibility that an independent site does.
3) Occasionally friends would tell me about something they had read and then say, as if to tell me something, ‘this is the sort of thing that would really belong on East Ethnia’.
But I think I will try to do things not just the same way. I will be trying to keep a focus on a particular set of topics here, and keep the music videos, jokes and such things on the social networks. Posting will also not be extremely frequent; expect a couple posts a week rather than a couple posts a day. And I will be trying to add some features, so that this can become a site where people can find out about upcoming events, at least in this fair city.
Oh, and one other change: I will be moderating comments this time around. It may just be a way of creating more work for myself (read: wasting more time) but I think it is the only way to get the kind of discussion I want to have rather than a free for all. When I get around to writing a ‘comments policy’ it will be in the ‘about the blog’ section (look above).
So, real content will be coming soon. In the meantime, everything is under construction but feel free to have a look around. And especially now as the site is in its (new) beginnings, I will be grateful for your suggestions, advice and demands.