On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Eastern Europe

On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Eastern Europe

On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Eastern Europe

On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Eastern Europe

Excerpt

The dominant discourse on Central and Eastern Europe in and outside the region confronts us with a paradox. Central to this discourse is the interpretation of the events of 1989 and the subsequent social and political development presenting a hope/chance for a “return to normalcy.” Here normalcy means the “West,” a combination of ideals such as “diversity,” “freedom,” “democracy” and “market economy,” This “Europeanization,” prescribing radical “westernization” and “normalization,” supposedly meant the end of a distinct “Eastern” category in Europe, or at least the rapid evaporation of its unpleasant connotations and a gradual “reintegration” of Europe. But paradoxically, at least in the short run, this “normalization” has led to extremely “abnormal” and partly unexpected disintegrative tendencies around the shifting borders of “Europe.” Federal structures and states collapsed creating geopolitical uncertainties, harsh disputes over minorities and territories evolved, and in some cases ugly and devastating civil and international wars were conducted, hindering the return to “normalcy” and thus the hoped-for disappearance of the East–West divide. It is still with us and only the level of “Easterness” or “Westerness” is debated with regard to different, geographically and politically understood contexts.

The political disintegration, the wars and the “rise” of nationalism have been rarely explained by the emerging new socio-political framework, i.e. global capitalism and the European Union. The arguments tend to fall back instead on essentialized and scaled “Eastern” characteristics of the region. The “abnormal” phenomena have been either understood as the “return of the past,” i.e. the reproduction of the inherited “Eastern” structures and sociopolitical reflexes, or they have been dismissed as the “necessary” but “unpleasant” costs of getting back . . .

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