No Race to the Swift: Negotiating Racial Identity in Past and Present Eastern Europe

By Boatcã, Manuela | Human Architecture, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

No Race to the Swift: Negotiating Racial Identity in Past and Present Eastern Europe


Boatcã, Manuela, Human Architecture


Abstract: Portrayals of Eastern European countries as "bridges" between East and West are commonplace both in the media and in the political discourse. While the question of the historical origin of Europe's East-West divide is still under heavy dispute among social scientists, it can be argued that it was the Orientalist discourse of the 19th century that decisively shaped the content of the present categories of Western and Eastern Europe and made policies of demarcation from "the Orient" an important strategy of geopolitical and cultural identification with Europe. The enduring quality of Orientalism's effects on both national self-definitions and social and cultural policy in Eastern Europe is examined in the present paper in two successive steps: first, by looking at the intellectual discourse in 19th century Romania against the background of the country's political independence from the Ottoman Empire and increasing economic, cultural and political orientation toward Western Europe; second, by discussing the resurgence of systems of representation based on this type of discourse in the context of the European Union's "Eastern enlargement". In the first case, the terms of the Western European discourse were appropriated such as to make the "Oriental barbarism" in which Romanian society had been "steeped" until acquiring independence from the Ottoman Empire the point of departure for the development of a European (civilized, Christian, modern) identity. In the second case, the degree of connection to the Ottoman, and therefore Islamic legacy of Eastern European candidates to the European Union has been reinstrumentalized as a legitimating strategy for discursive practices of inferiorization, exoticization, and racial othering that parallel the region's economic peripheralization.

1. MENTAL MAPS OF EUROPE: HISTORY AND TERMS OF TRADE

Portrayals of Eastern European countries as "bridges" between East and West are commonplace both in the media and in the political discourse. In particular, the popular label "gateway to the East" is used in history textbooks, tourist guides, and economic reports to equally describe Warsaw, Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, and Istanbul (Hann 1995: 2). Thus, in the European imaginary, Easternness, in its European variant, is being continually passed on-and, as such, consistently refuted-all the way to Europe's geographical borders as they are defined today.

As definitions of the border between Western and Eastern Europe have historically shifted to highlight ethnic, economic, imperial, or religious divides within the continent, so have attitudes toward the proximity of the Orient and the threat it was perceived to represent at different moments in time. Rather than a twenty-first century phenomenon, efforts to reject an Eastern identity constitute a historically recurring pattern in the construction of Eastern European national self-definitions that has been inextricably tied to (1) the military, economic and cultural impact of the Ottoman Empire in the region on the one hand and (2) the representations of Islam and the Orient in the geopolitical imaginary of the Euro-American core on the other.

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the ongoing process of negotiating geographical borders while reasserting historical claims to territory and power resulted in further subdivisions such as Central, Northern, Southern and Southeastern Europe. Whereas Central Europe was conceived as a third zone between Eastern and Western Europe, but was coterminous with the nineteenth century geopolitical project of Mitteleuropa, Southeastern Europe was coined as a politically correct term for designating the Balkans, the easternmost region within the East itself (Gallagher 2001: 113). Due to its proximity to Asia and its legacy of Ottoman dominance, it was this last subcategory in particular which has conjured up the image of a bridge between Orient and Occident, and which as a result has periodically acquired the scent of temporal in-betweenness as well-of the semideveloped, semicolonial, semicivilized, semi-Oriental (Todorova 2002) always in the process of "catching up with the West.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

No Race to the Swift: Negotiating Racial Identity in Past and Present Eastern Europe
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.