We, the People: Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeastern Europe

We, the People: Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeastern Europe

We, the People: Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeastern Europe

We, the People: Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeastern Europe

Excerpt

This volume is the result of a 15-month research work which brought together young scholars from different Southeast-European academic cultures on a project initiated and hosted by the Centre for Advanced Study in Sofia in partnership with Collegium Budapest. The project entitled We, the People. Visions of National Peculiarity and Political Modernities in Southeastern Europe, is inscribed into a broad and daunting design: to help craft a more coherent methodological and structural framework for dealing with questions of collective identity and the institutionalization of national discourse in the context of “late-coming” nation-state projects. In undertaking this task, we focused on a particular, yet critical area: exploring the political instrumentalization of key concepts describing collective identity, such as nation, folk, people, ethnos, national tradition, race, etc., with the purpose of “mapping” the discursive and institutional itineraries through which this set of notions became a focal point of cultural and political thought in various Southeast-European contexts, coincidental with the emergence of political modernity. Our intention was thus to grasp the processes of actual emergence of the terminology of collective identity in these cultures during the long 19th century.

Students of the region are likely to intuit the ties of an enquiry into the politics of national peculiarity to constitutive aspects of Southeast-European intellectual and political cultures. What we are dealing with are political traditions where the definition of the collective self had long been and, in a sense, still is, a principal question. Obviously, any attempt to grasp the processes of identity formation in contexts marked by profound discontinuities, forced structural changes and, in consequence, acute modernization dilemmas presents a major challenge to, but also a strong attraction for, the scholars reflecting on these

1 I would like to thank the German Foreign Office and the Swedish Bank Tercentenary
Foundation for the support they offered to this focus-group research and the series of attending
workshops.

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