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http://crs.sagepub.com Appropriating `Balkan': Rock and Nationalism in Slovenia
Peter Stankovic Crit Sociol 2001; 27; 98 DOI: 10.1177/08969205010270030501 The online version of this article can be found at: http://crs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/3/98
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insane dictators. youth. however. religions. Balkans. The author argues that Yu rock music and culture have with their universal allegiances helped to preserve a degree of sane distance from the feverish outbursts of nationalisms among the signi cant part of the country’s youth during the years of nationalist wars between its former federal republics. which means that this aYrmative appropriation of the concept of ‘Balkan’ basically only reproduced the existing understanding of peoples of the region as fascinating and also sometimes dangerous Otherness Key words Rock music. endless ows of refugees. ruthless ghting between armies of archaic warriors. 1. It is true that listening to the Yu rock music and appropriation of what was perceived as typically Balkan life-style by Slovenian alternative youth meant important symbolic challenge to Slovenian oYcial nationalist discouse. Introduction The associations which have arisen in connection to the word “Balkans” in the last decade or so have been predominantly negative ones: ethnic cleansing. 98–115 . identity. histories.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. cultures. endless division of territory into new independent states. subcultures. 2009 Critical Sociology 27:3. meaning that it is possible to understand it as a positive movement in political sense. A special case of Slovenian “Balkan-scene”. there was no recognition among the Slovenian alternative rockers of the fact that ’Balkans’ is actually a set of rather diVerent ethnicities. Slovenia. nationalism.. which have happened after the dissolution of former socialist Yugoslavia. do not necessarily have the same positive impact. This picture of the Balkans obviously has some resemblance to the actual situation (I refer here and in the following text only to that part of the Balkan region known as “former Yugoslavia. shows that various appropriations of Yu rock music. rape. and so on.sagepub. folkways etc. anti-essentialism. intolerant nationalism.” oYcially the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). however. almost systematic violations of human rights. but this opposition did little to abolish the stereotyped understanding of the ‘Balkan’ as such. it would be wrong to regard these events as the sole feature Downloaded from http://crs.APPROPRIATING ‘BALKAN’: ROCK AND NATIONALISM IN SLOVENIA Peter StankoviÔ Faculty of Social Sciences University of Ljubljana Abstract The article raises questions regarding the relations between rock music and nationalism in former Yugoslavia. Just as in the oYcial discourse.
and also very important. a high degree of interethnic marriage. at least to a certain extent. about its universal allegiances. movies and so forth) and enthusiastic appropriation of what was perceived as typical characteristics of the Balkan lifestyle emerged among many young people in the country. Perhaps the most distinctive form of this rejection of the nationalist discourse in the name of rock universalism happened in the early ’90s in one of the former Yugoslav federal republics (now an independent state). a signi cant reluctance of youths to get themselves recruited for senseless nationalist wars (most notably in Serbia). which in the urban centers of the former Yugoslavia remained an important element which helped many people to distance themselves. the culture of rock music. carried along by nationalist euphoria. ’70s and ’80s Yugoslav youth culture (comics. Slovenia. but belong rather to the “superior” Western European Downloaded from http://crs. as is usually the case. It is true that listening to Yu Rock music and appropriation of what was perceived as the Balkan lifestyle by Slovene alternative youth meant an important symbolic (if not actual) challenge to Slovenia’s oYcial attempts to distance itself from the rest of the former Yugoslav regions. a huge revival of Yu Rock music. friendships that sometimes develop between soldiers on the opposite sides of a front. Obviously. if not always from nationalist feelings. than at least from the idea that in the name of your nation you should hate or even kill members of other nations.appropriating ‘balkan’ 99 of the area. claiming they had nothing in common with “the southerners” from the Balkans. but there is a ipside to this coin: a long tradition of ethnic and religious tolerance. 2009 . They were. which cut across all ethnic and cultural boundaries for decades before the outburst of violent nationalism following the dissolution of the former socialist state. However. generations who didn’t know anything about rock music and culture. things are not that simple. helped to preserve the feeling among an important section of the urban young that these nationalist wars were not their wars. In the same years when the majority of Slovenes. tried to distance themselves from their Yugoslav past. regarded as wars of the older generations.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. They are the ones most extensively covered by the media. The long tradition of Yugoslav rock music (known in the region as Yu Rock). related ’60s. events like these could be seen as positive: they indicate not only that self-centered and usually aggressive nationalisms are not the only things happening in the region.sagepub. but also that there is a real possibility of improving the inter-ethnic relations among the former Yugoslav nations in the perhaps not too distant future. through the implicit or explicit claims that Slovenia and its culture are not part of Balkan culture.
The purpose of this paper is therefore to explore the issues of nationalism and rock culture in relation to Yu Rock music and its various appropriations in recent decades. there was no recognition among Slovene alternative rockers of the fact that “the Balkans” is actually a set of rather diVerent ethnicities. two basic notions. One perspective. What matters here is that it seems that the latter perspective has recently attracted much more support among scholars. but also since it shows how various segments of popular culture do have important practical/political consequences. Just as in the oYcial discourse. This is probably good news.100 peter stankoviÔ culture.” will be analyzed in more detail. Slovene “Balkan nostalgia. and then applied to the case of Yu Rock music and culture. 2009 tities are obviously produced to a signi cant extent via diVerent processes . which means that there is some essential and even eternal interconnectedness between the members of a nation. Anderson (1991). a special case in point.” argues that nationalist sentiments are nothing but a logical extension of kinship ties. since it represents a part of the Yu Rock tradition where symbolic clashes between nationalist and universal ideologies were played out in what was probably the most meaningful manner. religions. folkways. since national idenDownloaded from http://crs. 2. nationalism and youth subcultures. etc. After a short discussion about the political impact of this culture. this opposition did little to abolish the stereotyped understanding of “the Balkans” as such. known as “primodialist. Accordingly. histories.. Nationalism and youth subcultures There are many diVerent interpretations of the phenomenon of nationalism in contemporary social theory. will be presented rst as a conceptual background for the discussion. However. alongside the processes of modernization (compare: Gellner (1983 and 1991). cultures. but rather an ideology or discursive construction which appeared not earlier than in recent centuries. 1 The other perspective argues exactly the opposite: that national identity is not an essential characteristic of people. which means that this aYrmative appropriation of the concept of “the Balkans” basically only reproduced the existing understanding of the region’s peoples as fascinating (and sometimes also dangerous) Others.com at UCL Library Services on November 17.sagepub. An analysis like this is important not only because it proves that intolerant nationalisms are not the only ideology present in the region. not necessarily uniformly positive (as some authors in the eld of cultural studies tend to suppose). Breuilly (1993)). but it could be argued that all of them might be understood as simply diVerent versions of two basically opposed perspectives on this issue.
eventually perhaps even leading to a more peaceful future for our planet. all of which have in the last couple of centuries engendered too much hatred and killing. is that these new meanings stand outside the conventional “maps of meaning” used by people in their daily routines. Perhaps the most famous argument developed by these writers was derived from the concept of “bricolage. imparting to them various new meanings. the perspective which claims that nationalism as a collective form of identi cation is not a “naturally occurring phenomenon but a contingent historical-cultural formation” (Barker. peacemakers. There was quite a bit of attention paid to youth subcultures in the 1970s. 2000: 324–327). 1996: 100–112. 2009 Hebdige. all of which tried in diVerent ways to locate their points of identi cation outside of the images.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. thus possibly contributing to higher levels of tolerance and respect between peoples of diVerent cultures and origins. While today. One important and by no means marginal segment of such post-national social movements consists of those known as youth subcultures.) can be identi ed. 2000: 197) has positive practical consequences: it opens up a possibility of transcending limited national identities. if the maps of meaning used by the people are basically the common-sense colonized by hegemonic discourse (as Gramsci would claim). many scholars today2 not only support such anti-essentialist understanding of the phenomenon of nations/nationalism. an increasing number of various movements (the student movements of the 1960s. Mike Brake. since they deconstruct the very sites where the hegemony operates (compare: Downloaded from http://crs. John Clarke. but are also trying to actively engage themselves in deconstructing seemingly stable national identities. Namely. stories and symbols of nationhood. etc.sagepub. In the decades following World War II. more than occasionally to an extent exceeding anything the history of mankind has ever witnessed. ecologists. anti-globalists. which is something that oVers a possible point of departure for the politics of emancipation. The point here is that if the ideology of nationalism has proven problematic because of its tragic consequences. when some of those who are now already “classical” theorists in this eld (Paul Willis.appropriating ‘balkan’ 101 of exclusions and chauvinist stereotyping. a quarter . Dick Hebdige. What is important here.) used them as an example of consumers’ creativity in the world of popular culture.” implying that members of various youth subcultures take diVerent artifacts from their social environments and re-combine them in new ways.3 etc. the argument goes. But the above-mentioned scholars are not alone in their eVorts to transcend narrow national identi cations. Leading from this perspective. then subcultural practices of altering existing meanings (through “bricolage”) might be understood as a process of emancipation. Barker.
rejected or evaded. Of course. It essentially originates from the United States. it was not. but let us present two more recent examples. other events. One obvious feature of hardcore punk culture which exempli es this is related to various local “scene reports” (about bands. And one of these is their position outside of narrow. which are always included in fanzines produced by its members. from Portugal to Japan) and represent them as part of a heterogeneous but united international alternative culture. however. their self-understanding in terms of the slogan “rave nation” even proves that they have articulated their points of identi cation completely outside of traditional national terms. The rst is the international culture of hardcore punk. . where cultural diVerences are not seen as a threat. The facts that nationalism in the former socialist regime was all but banned. Basically this should be obvious. Since the claim should be obvious enough that nationalist ideas and sentiments in most of the subcultural movements from the second half of the 20th century have been transcended. this does not necessarily hold true for all of the subcultures (certainly not for the skinheads. However. let us now move a step further and try to examine the relationship between nationalism and youth subcultures in the former Yugoslavia and in countries which later emerged out of this country’s ruins.102 peter stankoviÔ of a century later. it is a bit diYcult to agree with the argument that youth subcultures represent an important symbolic opposition to the existing hegemony as such (some very substantial criticisms proved that claims like these are oversimpli ed).sagepub. and that nationalist feelings erupted with an almost unprecedented vigor after the dissolution of socialism. there is strong evidence that youth subcultures generally do form diVerent value-orientations which transcend narrow nationalist discourses in the name of tolerant universalism or internationalism. etc.com at UCL Library Services on November 17.). 2009 above in the case of western countries. but as soon as it was adopted in other environments. completely outside of traditional national/cultural boundaries. it acquired a strong international identity. concerts. These reports (each fanzine tries to obtain as many as possible) cover extremely diverse places (from Brazil to Finland. replacing imagined ideas of common blood and soil with notions of brotherhood in dancing and partying. might lead the reader to an assumption that this relationship should have been signi cantly diVerent from the relationship discussed Downloaded from http://crs. The second example is perhaps even bolder: members of the popular “rave” or “club” culture not only form a strong international subculture as such. partially also not for the mods and some punk factions). self-centered nationalist discourses.4 it could be argued that they nevertheless do have at least some politically progressive dimensions.
movies. Ljubljana. parties. at the time it was not uncommon if young members of the communist party (skojevci) should cut the hair of a rock fan. and by the time of economic and political liberalization at the end of the ’60s there already existed a strong rock scene (compare: Ramet. Yugoslav youth thus. ruled by a more or less incompetent communist elite. so. if they met one in the street. however. among other things. comics. gradually things calmed down and the party rulers reconciled themselves to the fact that in the big urban centers of the country (Zagreb. travels to India and so on. many of them playing an interesting mixture of western rock music and more local musical and lyrical in uences.5 One of the consequences of this was a certain openness towards the West. it is possible to hear some oriental harmonies in their songs). after the con ict with the Stalinist Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries in 1948. if they wore their hair too long (in so-called “Beatles style”). was a signi cant in ow of western popular culture. For some period of time boys could also be expelled from school.sagepub. began to follow western popular and subcultural fashions. Downloaded music but also in their lyrics. since these youths’ decadent looks did by no means t into the ideal (or cult) of healthy and happy socialist youth. However. for example. However. the consequences of which. In the ’70s the rst major Yugoslav rock supergroups emerged. image and . 6 There is no need to stress that this was not according to the communist party oYcials’ desires. Belgrade. 1994: 108). Members of various rock subcultures focused their lives on music.com at UCL Library Services on November 17.) a strong culture of rock fans with their own lifestyle existed. from the early ’60s. fun. One thing that helped in this reconciliation was the fact that this rock culture was more or less politically indiVerent. thus representing no serious political threat to the existing socialist order. turning out attractive and accessible musical products which sold in (for those times) unbelievable numbers. A decisive injection of the folk dimension. Sarajevo. Bijelo dugme (White Button) was a rock group from Bosnia which started the trend of fusion between the local folk tradition and AngloAmerican rock. etc. The group began in the early ’70s with a unique combination of bombastic hard rock and certain elements of Bosnian folk music (for example. Novi Sad.appropriating ‘balkan’ 3. was present not only in their from http://crs. Yugoslavia set out on its own path towards socialism. Rock behind the iron curtain 103 Socialist Yugoslavia after World War II was an economically rather backward and culturally extremely diverse country. a bit less hostile towards western capitalism than was the case in the rest of Eastern Europe. Let us take a look at an example. 2009 performance.
hard rock. it should be no surprise that Bijelo dugme soon became the ultimate Yugoslav rock group: they were rockers. It is also important that this youth culture cut across all frontiers between the country’s former federal republics. 2009 began to de ne the country’s political arena at that time. jewelry. There might have been signi cant diVerences between the music being made. which was certainly not as apolitical as classical rock. visiting concerts and friends in other cities. On the cover of the one of their LPs. rock in many diVerent manifestations (punk. Accordingly. but primarily because of the universalist rock ethic. of course) followed this pattern of fusion between western rock and local culture.9 While in the ’80s one could feel the rise of nationalisms. for example. the furious reaction of the communist leaders to this movement. unbuttoned shirts showing hairy chests. cultural or any other diVerences prevented them from feeling that they were part of the same subcultural movement(s). and the design of their records toyed with the stereotype of uncivilized highlanders from the Balkans. Their performance was bombastic end euphoric.7 their visual appearance was a rather tasteless mixture of screaming hard rock image and local macho iconography (e.) remained a strong unifying element. but not dangerous. for example. new wave. big mustaches. heavy metal. When punk rock emerged in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Traveling around the country. but with a avor close to the everyday culture of people’s lives. which clearly stands against nationalism and ethnic intolerance. It is true that . According to all this. in Belgrade and in Ljubljana (diVerent cultural backgrounds engendered diVerent fusions between local and western). listening to the music from other republics. was a suggestive picture of a girl’s buttocks in tight panties.10 It is important to emphasize here that this was not because members of these subcultures regarded socialist Yugoslavia as an unproblematic political and economical entity as such. etc. ethnic and cultural diVerences being no problem at all. held by the arm of a lustful peasant. heavily emotionally charged poetry about love proved to be very eVective against a background of driving hard rock. etc. The diVerences were interesting. there was a strong feeling of cohesion between the rock fans from the various parts of the country. all this helped most members of Yugoslav rock culture in not falling for the xenophobic nationalist discourse that Downloaded from http://crs.104 peter stankoviÔ Typically Balkan. thus establishing the identity of Yu Rock music and culture as something unique and distinct.sagepub.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. which later led to the war.g. but this was no obstacle: youth in Belgrade also listened to the music made in Ljubljana and vice versa. united the members of the rock culture across the country even more.). where no ethnic.8 What is important here is that the subsequent bands essentially (to various degrees.
Things have changed dramatically. religious. in diVerent socio-political contexts of socialism. . introduced a far-reaching version of the anti-nationalist.sagepub. but the thousands of young men who ed the country rather than ght the meaningless war show that it was not impossible. November 17. in the case of Yu Rock and in contrast to the western situation..appropriating ‘balkan’ 105 it was more diYcult to stand apart from this discourse when the battles started. though. mir . to a signi cant extent actually in accordance with the oYcial discourse. Yu Rock could be understood.11 Of course. And the fact that most of the youths who ed the country were from big cities (the best-known example being Belgrade itself ) proves that there is a strong correlation between the urban culture of rock and a sane retreat from the nationalist madhouse. arti cial “pan-Yugoslav” ideology. does not mean that this skepticism towards nationalism functioned entirely in the same way as it did in the West: avoidance of the nationalist discourse was. this does not mean that youth subcultures in Yugoslavia uncritically accepted socialist ideology as a whole (as already pointed out. in order to prevent outbursts of different latent antagonisms between these various groups. cultural. The point here is that already communism as an ideology regarded nationalism as a (false) bourgeois ideology. similar mistrust or opposition towards self-centered nationalist ideologies. . 1992) What this short overview of the history of what is known as Yu Rock shows is that the relationship between nationalism and youth subcultures was more or less the same as it was in the West: various subcultural movements developed. And translated: Peace brother.com at to collapse. . with the suppression of too overtly nationalist party elites in the federal republics. The Yugoslav communist party. . 2009 when communism gradually started UCL Library Services onvarious nationalist elites . as the music and culture which was at least implicitly opposed to the existing order). peace . with some exceptions. it is simply that in the case of nationalism. Rimtutituki: “SluÒaj ‘vamo” (single: SluÒaj ‘vamo. Mir brate. they proved to be essentially in accordance with oYcial ideology. best exempli ed by what was probably the most important oYcial slogan of the time. on a practical level. By the end of the 1980s. Downloaded from http://crs. This. diversity of the regions comprising the state. B-92. “brotherhood and unity”—or. etc. negative oYcial portrayals of nationalism were accentuated even more because of the huge ethnic. however. but in the case of former socialist Yugoslavia.
leading to a real obsession in the following years. who literally simultaneously with the country’s proclamation of independence began to emulate what they perceived as the typical “Balkan” lifestyle. Slovene rock culture (or more precisely. etc. the followers of this scene were still a minority. extraordinarily successful tours of former and present Yu Rock stars and bands were also organized. This came out in several diVerent ways. most disturbingly) in something which came to be known as “Balkan scene” or “Balkan nostalgia. on the eve of Downloaded from http://crs. but certainly not a small and unimportant one.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. but most intensively (and for the Slovene public. developed a strong opposition to Slovene oYcial and popular nationalism.12 to listen to old Yu Rock records. fueled by certain cultural and historical distinctiveness. Perhaps this phenomenon would not be very interesting if it had remain bound within the circles of the Slovene alternative rock movement (which was not very large). but this is not our concern here. Slovene alternative rock of the early 1990s. formal independence was proclaimed. Of course. nationalist sentiments. In Slovenia. with strictly Yu Rock (and occasionally also Gypsy) music played. and it was only in this context that the politically progressive potentials of rock universalism came to the fore. What will be discussed in the following pages is a simple question: how was Slovene rock from those turbulent times related to the strong popular nationalism in the country? As one might expect from what has already been said. so now let us turn to the case in point which is the focus of the present paper. to watch old Yugoslav movies.sagepub.” These terms refer to a strong and spontaneous reaction by the members of Slovenia’s alternative rock scene. We have already discussed how the anti-nationalist ethics of Yu Rock prevented many youths from falling for xenophobic and aggressive nationalist ideologies. grew steadily during the 1980s and culminated in 1991. the westernmost of the former Yugoslav federal republics. to include various Serbo-Croatian phrases in colloquial language. But the passionate and enthusiastic appropriation of “Balkan” quickly became very fashionable outside these circles as well. Very soon the rst of the so-called “Balkan jours” were organized in underground clubs. which led to several bloody con icts throughout the region in the decade to come. This was only the rst in a series of secessions of former republics. when. as well as economic superiority with respect to the other republics. the culture of Slovene “alternative” or “underground” rock) had. Already in 1991. in accordance with rock universalism. in accordance with a broad consensus expressed in a plebiscite carried out the year before.106 peter stankoviÔ took power in the federal republics. 2009 .
To illustrate the point. occasionally explicitly nostalgic for “the good old times” in the former Yugoslavia. called “Jugoslavija blues. let us take a look at a song lyric which is more than typically representative of the Balkan-nostalgic musical genre in contemporary Slovene rock. that is. sung along with an overtly nostalgic glorifying of the former Yugoslavia: Downloaded from http://crs. many guests were unable to enter an overcrowded club. and “Balkan-jours” were adopted extremely successfully in mainstream clubs. several new Slovene rock bands also emerged which played contemporary rock music with a distinctive “Balkan” avor. In fact. cigarettes.appropriating ‘balkan’ 107 Slovenia’s proclamation of its independence (on the 26th of June). 2009 . and is (as are most of their songs) in the Serbo-Croatian language and full of oVensive anti-Western citations (in quotes). and the music itself was also strongly in uenced by vintage and contemporary Yu Rock. Soon afterwards. but it is also signi cant that many other rock bands. only one become really successful. It was markedly loose. many of their children were dancing until dawn to the music of exactly this “uncivilized” south. the ones who did not necessarily play strictly nostalgic Yu Rock.sagepub. emotional and hedonistic (in sharp contrast to the tradition of Slovene alternative rock. coVees. former Yugoslav ags. ZakloniÒÔe prepeva (whose latest record still tops the national charts as I write this). a big “Balkan-jour” party was thrown at the underground club B-51 in Ljubljana. Gradually. This means that when the nationalist majority were celebrating their secession from the “uncivilized. which was usually rather serious and/or artistic).com at UCL Library Services on November 17. etc. discotheques and even high school dances (Ceglar.” “Balkan” south. there were no signi cant in uences on Slovene rock bands from other former Yugoslav bands. started to include various elements of Yu Rock tradition in their music. 1999). there was also an (un)healthy injection of what was perceived as typical “southern” machismo. red stars. right up until the time after Slovenia’s proclamation of independence. even if there was no club policy to restrict the entrance). The song.” is from a record by the abovementioned ZakloniÒÔe prepeva. This is important because something like this was actually never the case before: Slovene rock bands in the former Yugoslavia were certainly part of the common rock scene. along with the obligatory imagery of unshaven faces. when a huge oYcial celebration of the “realization of the country’s thousandyear-old dream” was organized in front of the national parliament. Their lyrics were in the Serbo-Croatian language. but they always retained strong aesthetic distinctiveness. Of all these bands. B-51 and other underground clubs became too small for the crowds (occasionally.
. . .) „We’ll f *** m******* of everybody From Washington to Rome Long live Yugoslavia” (. 1998) from http://crs.) “ Jeba®emo mater svima Od VaÒingtona pa do Rima ´ivela jugoslavija” (.com at UCL Library Services on November 17.108 (. . . . 2009 . .) peter stankoviÔ „Smrt Klintonu i ´ak Óiraku Skinu®emo glavu svaku ´ivela Jugoslavija“ ´ivi sre®na u slobodi NaÒa ljubav nek te vodi Jugoslavijo Gde nas vodi ljubav stara Tamo dole do Vardara ´ivela Jugoslavija ´ivi sre®na u slobodi Tito putem nek te vodi Jugoslavijo And in translation: (.sagepub.) “Death to Clinton and Jacques Chirac We’ll decapitate everybody Long live Yugoslavia” Live happily in freedom Let our love for you be your guide Yugoslavia Our old love Takes us all the way down to Vardar Long live Yugoslavia Live happily in freedom Along the path of Tito Yugoslavia ZakloniÒÔe prepeva: “Jugoslavija Blues” (CD: Novo vreme—stare dileme. Shelter Downloaded Records. .
cultural. Heterogenous political dimensions of the appropriation of “Balkan” The obvious question related to the issue of Slovenia’s alternative youth and its appropriation of the concept of “Balkan” is the one concerning the meaning and political consequences of all this. ski jumps.. Namely.13 which means that a nationalist discourse which neglects all this complexity and heterogeneity and strives to represent Slovenia’s national identity as merely something pure and essentially “European” is just a discursive construction in the service of legitimising the claims Downloaded from http://crs. 4. Obviously. just as any other national identity.appropriating ‘balkan’ 109 Obviously. as a part of the newly appreciated “Balkan” culture (compare Ceglar: 1999: 80). Things started to change only a couple of years ago. with the successes of the Slovene national soccer team (to a signi cant extent comprised of second-generation immigrants) at Euro 2000. The point is that Slovenia’s national identity. ethnic. the contrast between the oYcial Slovene pro-Western and anti-Balkan discourse and the presented lyrics could hardly be sharper. the latter started to see this sport as “stupid” and “uncivilized.” shifting their attention to sports which had a strong symbolic connection to Slovenia’s uniqueness in the former Yugoslavia. in comparison with other former republics. the enthusiastic appropriation of “Balkan” carries. 2009 . Things changed. should be understood as a hybrid of various social. But what is important from this topic’s point of view is that many members of the “Balkan scene” had already rediscovered soccer in the early 1990s. but this probably does not exhaust the meaning or importance of these events. By so doing. they subverted one of the most important symbolic sites of Slovene nationalism at the time. Soccer was traditionally strongly present in Slovenia. just as it was anywhere else in Europe. these sports were alpine skiing.sagepub. But there is also one more interesting case in point in the context of appropriating “Balkan”: the game of soccer. the aYrmative appropriation of “Balkan” could be understood as a typical youth opposition to elders and their values. in spite of all its typical youth contrariness. though. when a signi cant in ow of immigrants from the other republics of the former Yugoslavia in the 1960s and ’70s helped to bring Slovene nationalism into full swing. mountainous country.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. an important element of “truth”: it exposes the arti cial gist of Slovenia’s nationalist discourse. Because the immigrants from other republics were much more passionate soccer fans than Slovenes. histories and experiences. ice hockey and mountain climbing. with much of its landscape dominated by the Alps. etc. Since Slovenia is.
g. From this point of view. chauvinistic prejudices and feelings of superiority towards the “southerners” entirely unnecessary or even absurd.” the young showed that there is much more in Slovene history and culture than merely some supposed essential “European-ness. where Slovenia has always supposedly belonged.” the “Balkan nostalgia” movement has actually deconstructed only the rst element in the pair (Slovene-ness as an essentially European identity). is a desirable one.. “Balkan scene” employs the term “Balkan” as a stable signi er which refers to the exotic “South of Downloaded from http://crs. Just as in Slovene oYcial and popular discourse. on the other hand.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. the latter were reduced to “uncivilized.sagepub.” “Balkan. “Balkan-ness. there was much more than that) exposes the arti cial nature of the binary opposition Slovenia/Balkans. it has. Namely. while the “Balkan nostalgia” or “Balkan scene” could be interpreted as a positive development because it exposed the imagined dimension of Slovenia’s nationalist discourse and thus removed the grounds for imagined feelings of superiority. “Balkan scene” can be understood as a positive movement.” the “Balkan scene” in Slovenia did nothing to deconstruct or transcend stereotypes inscribed in this signi er.110 peter stankoviÔ of Slovenia’s supposed superiority with respect to the other former Yugoslav republics. but actually. remained rmly within the Slovene oYcial and popular discourse in understanding “Balkan” as essential and exotic Otherness. This means that if Slovenia’s oYcial discourse is based on a binary dichotomy of (European) Slovene-ness/(non-European) “Balkan-ness. chauvinism. showing that they are not as stable and pure as they assume. of course. thus opening up a real possibility for a renewal or at least improvement of tolerance and understanding in the region. but since they do have problematic consequences—such as negative stereotypes ascribed to anybody not tting into this imagined identity (e. etc. And this is where lies the practical or political importance of Slovene “Balkan nostalgia” of the early 1990s: by worshipping “Balkan.” thus making negative stereotypes. Such discursive constructions of identities around imagined xed points (essential “European-ness. therefore. 2009 .—it might be argued that any project of deconstructing them.” the symbolic Other of rational (Western) Europe. But this is just one dimension of the “Balkan nostalgia” in Slovenia.” in our case) are certainly common in social life. With regards to the second element in the pair. The recognition that there is an important “Balkan” dimension in Slovenia’s own historical experience (if nowhere else. immigrants from the “South”). in a negative image many Slovenes have tried to distance themselves from. In this discourse. the movement has an important ipside.
” But if we consider that this appreciation was more or less just a typical bohemian glori cation of the alternative to what was perceived as cold.g.appropriating ‘balkan’ 111 Slovenia. Our argument is only that the “Balkan scene” in Slovenia in the early 1990s understood “Balkan” just as it was understood in Slovene oYcial and popular nationalist discourse: as a uni ed concept which refers to a set of xed exotic (Oriental) characteristics of the peoples south of the Slovene border.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. religions. “the Balkans” is actually a very heterogenous set of ethnicities. Which is something not necessarily in complete accordance with reality: there are several segments of the Balkans which are in certain ways much more “European” than Slovenia (e. at the same time. it participated (though unintentionally) Downloaded from http://crs. the “non-European” “Balkans” is actually more “European” than the supposedly essentially “European” Slovenia. in contrast to Slovene popular feelings. then one might wonder if this appreciation was not only reproducing the stereotyped understanding of peoples from the other parts of former Yugoslavia as ethnicities essentially “uncivilized. but this is not the point we are trying to make here.” which legitimises the Slovene nationalist discourse. histories. there are also certain segments of Slovene culture which are more “Balkanized” than the cultures of regions which in the Slovene nationalist discourse are understood as true “Balkans” (for example. At this point we could go on stressing that the very notions of Europe and the Orient themselves are rather arti cial discursive constructions (compare: Said. And this is what matters here: if the Slovene “Balkan scene” appreciated “Balkan” because it represented to its members a symbolic opposition to “cold” and “dull” Europe.” “non-European. 1996). which corresponds exactly with one of the pejorative uses of the term “balkanization”). This said. basically a passionate appreciation of “Balkan.” etc. 2009 . large urban centers like Zagreb or Belgrade). In many ways. it should be pointed out that we do not accept the underlying assumption that “European-ness” is necessarily something desirable or superior as such. a recent problem in Slovenia: endless division of municipalities into new entities. rational European-ness (actually rather similar to the bohemian glori cation of Gypsies in the 19th century). we are merely trying to illustrate here that binary opposition of (European) Slovene-ness/(non-European) “Balkan-ness. all of which are related in diVerent ways to Europe and/or the Orient. Of course.” “irrational. there was an important peculiarity of the “Balkan scene” in this respect: the “Balkan scene” was.. cultures.” completely neglecting that there is actually no evidence that the Balkans begins exactly on the southern border of Slovenia14 and that even if it did.sagepub.. does not hold true even on its own terms. etc. and.
g. but also constructs everything and everybody not tting into the imagined community of a particular nation as dangerous.112 peter stankoviÔ in the Slovene nationalist discourse which set Slovenia inside the “European” cultural context.. it is impossible to neglect that nationalism represents a mobilization of peoples in a rather exclusive manner around the idea of a pure and as a rule superior nation. that is. And this is exactly the kind of discourse which has been engendering problems in Slovenia in recent decades. Downloaded from http://crs. 1997. As structuralist and poststructuralist theoretical apparatus shows. Slovene national identity as such does not mean anything. But the problem with national identities is not that they originate in these relations of diVerence and that these are tied to the relations of power. mobilizing members of a nation against this symbolic Otherness—often leading to more than merely symbolic actions. etc. which actually led to a long series of bloody con icts with other nations on the one hand. most notably in relation to immigrants from the other former Yugoslav republics. instead. is the fact that the relations of diVerence in nationalist discourses in recent centuries have been articulated together with state apparatuses as a distinctively powerful force. etc. which guarantees human rights).com at UCL Library Services on November 17.” “uncivilized” regions. it gave rise to the idea of the nationstate. they are more than occasionally treated dismissively by the Slovene majority. since national identity (as any other) is basically a linguistic construction. degenerated. dirty.sagepub. non-German. While it has obviously had some bene cial eVects (e. For example. and on the other. 2009 . non-Italian. which not only binds people together. 5. The problem of national identities as they are. based in relations of diVerence. inferior. essence that it can function as a unifying concept in terms of which people in the place now known as Slovenia de ne themselves. and Woodward. actually it is diYcult to see how things could have been diVerent (compare: Gilroy. Conclusion Nationalism is certainly one of the ideologies which has left a very strong imprint on the history of recent centuries. and other ethnicities of the former Yugoslavia rmly outside it... 1997). to various exclusions and even pogroms of those “impure” peoples within the nation itself. This means that an identity can be constructed only if there is something to be constructed against. it is only when this identity is constructed and understood as an unique non-Balkan. this could hardly be diVerent. in a relation of diVerence. Since these are understood in the Slovene nationalist discourse as people coming from “exotic.
Even if the intentions of the main players had been diVerent. 2000: 318–347). Sarah Thornton has argued that youth subcultures are not authentic forms created outside the media. should be articulated in a most cautious. in spite of their politically progressive rhetoric about unacceptable social hierarchies. if “shaking” too much while dancing. but as the case of Yu Rock and its appropriation in Slovenia in the early 1990s shows. the social movement of “Balkan nostalgia” proved to have quite ambivalent political consequences. because of these controversial dimensions which arise from the nature of nationalist discourses. aimed at political emancipation in any possible realm of social life. See for details: Thornton. Aside from that the words seem to lose their emotional strength in English. the movement should certainly be understood in terms of this framework. re exive and unorthodox manner. The most famous advocate of this perspective is Anthony D. or if a member of the band would start to play “too jazzy” solo parts.appropriating ‘balkan’ 113 As pointed out in previous sections. Likewise. she argues that youth subcultures. 2. 2009 . etc. Strictly speaking.sagepub. 5. and various cultures and lifestyles related to it. but rather lifestyles created within and lived through the media. things are not necessarily simple in this regard. 1995. 7. it might turn out to be a vain eVort. it is Downloaded from http://crs. boogie-woogie) rhythms. could be identi ed in this respect as one of the important focuses of struggle against nationalism. 1996). however. various theoretical and practical moves could be witnessed recently which were trying to evade. there were certain imports from western countries available. 1986). The term anti-globalization would not suggest this. For example: Yugoslav citizens were allowed to travel to the West freely. since members of loosely connected groups comprising this movement predominantly support international solidarity against the one-sided bene ts for developed countries from (only) economic globalization. Further.g. This may be taken as an important lesson: because of the complexity of issues related to identities. Otherwise. but along the lines of gender they only reproduce the existing hegemony of men over women (McRobbie. 3. Many of them come from the broad disciplinary framework of cultural studies. Notes 1. identity politics. Smith (see: Smith. 6.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. 4. just as the “Balkan nostalgia” movement did in Slovenia. 1995 and Barker. challenge or deconstruct stable national identities. however. For example: Angela McRobbie has shown that youth subcultures might constitute an important symbolic opposition to the hegemony of the ruling class. only reproduce these using new lines of diVerentiation (between those who have vast amounts of “subcultural capital” and those who do not) (Thornton. the communist party managed to suppress it to a signi cant extent: there were members of the secret police or party informers regularly present at the balls. 1989: 79–80). the rock subculture in the ’60s was not the rst local response to subcultural movements from the West. would be thrown out of the hall (Tomc. In the rst years after World War II one could witness a rather strong jazz subculture in many urban centers in Yugoslavia (as a continuity from the pre-war scene). and they would stop (and ne!) the band if it would start to play using overly “decadent” (e. a person. Rock music. In addition.
was at the time frequently played on the national TV station. J. 1994: 125–126. Theory and Practice. E. Nationalism and the State. 12. Plough. Napoleonic. Central European. London: Paladin. 2009 . Eastern European. Roman. P. 1991. oh mother. etc. (I am suVering already for ten days now and all this because of the girl of my friend. 14. Barker. and Velikonja. 11. 13. Urbana plemena. In: StankoviÔ. 1994: 111–123. 1974) 8. Ceglar. Ljubljana: Ótudentska zalo ba. C. “Balkan scena” (Balkan scene). Interestingly. which soon after the beginning of war in Croatia released the single “Hrvatska mora pobjediti” (Croatia must win). showing the band on a stage transformed into something like a trench. London and New York: Verso Books. Nations and Nationalism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. it could be argued that it is comprised of Slavic. For example.sagepub. Austro-Hungarian. Subcultures in Slovenia in the nineties). gossiping. (Urban Tribes. The Structure of History. Sword and Book. adopting a more easy-going lifestyle (in contrast with Slovene (self-perceived?) workaholism). with drinking much coVee and smoking many cigarettes. Perhaps the most famous one is the popular and highly esteemed Croatian rock band Psihomodo pop. Mediterranean. For a more detailed account of the clashes between party oYcials and alternative/punk bands see: Ramet. Gellner. those rock bands. my wedding ring I shall give her. The video spot of the song. in Croatia and Slovenia in the early 1970s. (eds. London.114 peter stankoviÔ diYcult to translate an example into something meaningful for those who do not know Bosnian culture.com at UCL Library Services on November 17. along with other patriotic songs (usually of more folk origin). Geographers would certainly disagree with such an assumption. Compare also: Ramet. In the case of Slovene identity. Downloaded from http://crs. 1999. For example. Balkan. Cultural Studies. curo bre majko moja urjet u zbog nje majko moja urjet u zbog nje zna ovo selo i njn tata joj joj joj da je volim iz inata blago njoj prsten u jo majko dati svoj prsten u jo majko dati svoj. there were exceptions. 10. socialist. my wedding ring!) Bijelo Dugme: “Patim evo deset dana” (LP Kad bi bio bijelo dugme. lucky her I shall give her. etc. Jugoton.). which more strictly followed western pop-rock patterns usually did not manage to attract as much critical or commercial attention as those which combined western in uences with local culture. 1991. References Anderson. M. Breuilly. G. hej hej hej sve to zbog cure mog jarana. B. hey babe my dear mother I will die because of her my dear mother I will die because of her! All the village knows this and her father too that I love her out of obstinacy. 1983. 2000. M. 9. histories and experiences. Of course. Oxford and Cambridge USA: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1993. but let us try: Patim evo ve deset dana. Immagined Communities.. Tomc. Subkulture na Slovenskem v devetdesetih. Thousand Oaks and New Delhi: Sage Publications. Gellner. oh mother. E.
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