III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 14-18 de julio de 2004

Europa en la encrucijada histrica

MESA O. Europa en la encrucijada histrica

Rada Ivekovic, Universit de Saint-Etienne, France

'Translating' Between Cultures. The Construction of Cultural Boundaries in the Balkans.

Under the concept of "Balkans", I would like to bear in mind rather the Yugoslav space - because of the recent unresolved conflicts - than the rest of the peninsula. This is not a historic approach, but a more abstract cultural and philosophical perspective. Something like "The Balkan Frontier of Europe as the Construction of Otherhood". It is not about concrete borders being drawn, rather, it would be a general philos anthropological approach with only hints and references to parts of the Balkans and with a possible comparison with other areas of the world, for the commonalities in the mechanism. The underlying idea is that these mechanisms are pretty much the same in principle, though the local conditions may be different. The idea of "translating, between cultures" as an open-ended relational and reciprocal gesture of freedom putting into question the "translator" and the "original" itself will be opposed to the somewhat limiting and communitarian (communalist) arrogant idea of a "dialogue between cultures" (translation-as-violation), often proposed by a benevolent multi-culturalist approach. The violence in redrawing [cultural] boundaries comes from discontinuing communication and exchange (no communication whatsoever implies : war) and from giving up the constant relational dynamic tension maintained in the rapport of translating as an attitude. Such a premature shutting down of alternative histories which is also a linguistic closure means, at the level of languages, pulling away from the diverse, means in-communication, constructing un-translatabilities and incomprehension, forcing separation between related idioms: constructing otherhood and striving to expulse it outside the "system", or outside the "good world".

Transeuropennes 16, 1999, "Paysages d'Europe aprs le mur, 1989-1999"

Transeuropennes 22, 2002, "Translating, Between Cultures / Traduire, entre les cultures"

Transeuropennes 23,2003, "Religions in Politics / Les religions en politique"

Misha Glenny, The Balkans. Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999, Penguin 1999.


Rada Ivekovic, Universit de Saint-Etienne, France

Summary Nationhood, Citizenship and Gender

The recent debate about the "Moslem Scarf" worn by some girls in French schools manifested some mass madness about the concept of lacit (approximately: secularism), which is historically at the core of the construction of the nation. A controversial law has finally been adopted about forbidding wearing "ostentatious religious sogns" at school. It is necessary to recognise the link between religion and politics, and particularly the theological origin of state secularism (and of lacit) inasmuch they are the secularisation of a divine concept - sovereignty itself.

I have witnessed in the former Yugoslavia, in anticipation of its partition at the end of the eighties (after Milosevic's "coup d'Etat" in the Party in 1987, the State - Yugoslavia - being a one-party state) and during its civil wars over the nineties, the construction of state-building exclusive, aggressive and one could say "racist" nationalisms (whereby "race" itself is a construction). Those nationalisms all addressed women as bearers of the nation and of soldiers, while the resistance didn't think of women as a target group (except small feminist groups). Public opinion became interested in women's and in gender issues only when these could profitably be instrumentalised in the conflict itself. Such was the case with the topic of mass rape in the last Balkan wars.

One has the same feeling today in France, where we witness a sudden public "concern" for (a group of) women caught between two patriarchies - the community's and the states's - and for gender equality: the problem which broke out in public as the problem of the Moslem girls' scarf worn at school. Nobody seems to know how to link the topics of secularism and sexuality, though their link is at the core of the definition of the nation. The problem is today a political, economic and a social one - the problem of the poor integration of the immigrant post-colonial population. It translates as "cultural" when some girls under 18 (the problem is not raised for adults, except when civil servants) wear a scarf, here perceived as a veil, to school. Everyone is right here, with opposite arguments.

But the practical question is now how to effectively inscribe into the nation a population that was absent at its constitution?

Indeed, in France, the nation will have to be redefined and the pact of secularism will itself have to be redefined. The gender regime is always being renegotiated at each new crisis. And here we come again to the gender issue: no nation, state or political institution cannot be established, constructed or defined without a redefinition and reconfiguration of the gender relationship in its political dimension. This is an occasion to act, and one of the crucial spots where to start.

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