Liminality Matters: Balkanism & its Edges
in Bulgarian Political Cartoons 2004-2009

By Alina Curticapean
January 2012
Tampere University Press
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.

ISBN: 9789514485985
316 pages

$137.50 Paper original

Most analysis of transnational power relations between the West and the Balkans has concentrated on Western constructions of the countries and peoples within the Balkan area. Taking a cue from the Saidian notion of contrapuntal reading, this dissertation illuminates the power relations organized around the Balkans in a reverse manner: not from the centre out, but from the periphery in. It shows how a so-called peripheral society, Bulgaria, narrates and represents itself in relation to a so-called core, the European Union.

This line of inquiry is pursued through an investigation of Bulgarian political cartoons as expressions of wider societal discourses. For these cartoons the relevant analytical category is that of Balkanism: a discourse of liminality organized around a set of hierarchically arranged binary oppositions - such as rational/irrational, controlled/violent, developed/ underdeveloped, civilized/ barbarian - organized so that the first element of the dichotomy is connected to ´Europe´ and the second with the ´Balkans´.

A decidedly mixed picture of Bulgarian self-representations emerges as a result of the analysis. Even though the crucial role played by Balkanist stereotyping cannot be denied, alternatives are certainly present. They include both indifference and more overt challenges of the Balkanist vocabulary. Last but not least, even those texts in which the prevailing patterns of the Balkanist discourse are deeply soaked in remain open to ironic interpretations that disrupt and subvert Balkanism?s claims to power and authority.


TAPRI Studies in Peace & Conflict Research No. 99


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