Communication in Eastern Europe: The Role of History, Culture, and Media in Contemporary Conflicts

Article excerpt

Communication in Eastern Europe: The Role of History, Culture, and Media in Contemporary Conflicts. Fred L. Casmir, ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995. 350 pp. $29.95 hbk.

Popular wisdom, a scientifically unverifiable though sometimes reliable source of cultural insights, has it that the urgency of intercultural communication reflects the thinking of political leaders and foreign policy makers. Thoughts, however, only begin to matter when they are transformed into economic and political imperatives that negotiate global power shifts or (de)construct cultural heritage to (re)claim territories. In this sense, Communication in Eastern Europe is an example of budding scholarly interest in the West in the dynamics of human communication in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This collection of essays, edited by Fred L. Casmir, distinguished professor of communication at Pepperdine University, echoes a Derridean concern for what and who constitutes an Eastern European identity. As illustrated by all twelve essays, in the case of Eastern Europe, the Derridean clash of "anguished experience and imminence" (The Other Heading: Reflections on Today's Europe, 1992) in the construction of (Eastern) European identity is further complicated by the burden of common ideological past, which was superimposed on the traditional cultures.

In its examination of the developing and symbolic communication processes, this book demonstrates how the unifying oppressive yoke of totalitarianism had a different impact on communication practices in each of the Eastern European countries.

For decades, the forgotten "second" world of Eastern Europe festered in the iron womb. In many ways, this book is a testimony to the painful transition from totalitarianism to a unique, culturally specific (Eastern) European democracy. Torn between political and military interests of the super powers, and rejected by the European West in the past, today Eastern Europe is powerfully drawn back to the hammer and sickle of the (nonexistent?) Big Brother. Admittedly, this area remains politically, historically, linguistically, agonizingly segmented, little explored and enigmatic. …