Postcolonial Europe

  • Увеличить размер шрифта
  • Размер шрифта по умолчанию
  • Уменьшить размер шрифта
English (United Kingdom)Svenska (Sverige)Polish (Poland)Russian (CIS)Ukrainian (Ukraine)
LETTERS AND COMMENTS


Letter exchange: György Schöpflin – Magdalena Kania

Dear Magdalena Kania,

I read your article "Here Comes the Rest.' A Sociological Perspective on Postcolonial Rethinking of the 'Second World' " with interest and I hope you will allow me to offer you a few comments.

I broadly accept the basic underlying thesis of applying postcolonial theory to Europe, so mine is in no way an antagonistic perspective. However, I would like to add a few thoughts that would extend the analytical potential of the theory.

[1] In the first place, it is very hard to make sense of power relations without a theory of power and legitimacy. One can take the neo-Foucaldian assumption set that appears to underlie the theory, basically that a power relationship exists in every transaction, but that says little or nothing about why such relationships are sometimes accepted as legitimate and sometimes not. In sum, what I am suggesting is that some prima facie postcolonial suppressions actually prove acceptable to those suppressed and not to others. One needs to look closely at cases of both. The discursive analysis is pivotal here, especially the attempt to construct a Bakhtinian monology that screens out alternatives. (I explore some of
these themes in my The Dilemmas of Identity, which should appear in English soon; the Hungarian version has been out for a while).

[2] This acceptance of the attractiveness or supreriority or whatever of the dominant culture then generates a comprador intellectual stratum. I believe that these compradors are to be found throughout Central and South-Eastern Europe and they make the identification of the subservient status difficult, because they can capture much of the public sphere, screen out alternative approaches, which they disdain as "nativist", "peasantist" or just plain "backwards". I see this problem as hyperacute in Hungary today because the tension betweeen the comporadors and their opponents has been mapped on to party politics, promoting zero-sum attitudes and an ever deeper enrooting of this cleavage line in Hungarian society. Some of the opposition is that between Budapest and the rest of the country.

[3] Postcolonial theory can certainly be applied fruitfully to majority-minority relations and their residues. I would be ready to accept an argument that this is a significant part of the tension between Hungary and Slovakia cureently, the resenment from the Slovak side at pre-1918 Hungarian overlordship coupled with successful sassimilation, and resentment on the Hungarian side at the pressure on the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. But that is just one example of the wider phenomenon.

[4] Then, you should not take Benedict Anderson's arguments at face value.

First, his Imagined Communities, which is partly so popular because it's so readable, actuallty fits into the much broader debate on nationalism, (i.e. Gellner, Kedourie, Anthony Smith, Hobsbawm et al; I played a small role in this myself). Then, methodologically Anderson comes straight out of social constructionism theory, but nowhere does he make reference to Berger & Luckman. Nor do you, as a matter of fact, but I assume that you are familar with it - postcolonial theory makes no sense without social constructionism.

[5] You may not know Jenõ Szûcs, 'Three Historical Regions of Europe' in (editor) John Keane, Civil Society and the State (London: Verso), pp.291-332, but you should find it very revealing about locating and identifying Central Europe.


Yours sincerely,
György Schöpflin
formerly
Jean Monnet Professor of Politics,
University of London
www.schopflingyorgy.hu/en/


*****

Dear Professor Schöpflin,

Thank you for your email and insightful comments. I believe that postcolonial theory has a lot to offer in the political, social and cultural analyses of the region, yet as a relatively new perspective has also still much potential in terms of development. I find your suggestion about the relation between power and legitimacy inspiring. In the article, I assume the neo-Foucauldian understanding of power without considering the questions of legitimacy, something which is perhaps one of the flaws in many postcolonial writings, not only those referring to Europe. I am familiar with Berger and Luckmann's social constructionism thesis and yet I do take Anderson's argument about imagined communities at face value mostly because of its popularity in the social sciences. In my understanding reference to Berger and Luckmans thesis is not neccessary in this context. Their perspective is much more micro-level-oriented, they do not take up questions of large structures, like nation, neither the issue of power.

Magdalena Kania
PhD student
Department of Sociology
Uppsala University
BOX 624, 751 26 Uppsala, Sweden

 

*****

Dear Magdalena Kania,

On Berger & Luckman, I agree with you up to a point, but Berger really does have the macro level in his sights - this emerges with considerable force from his "The Sacred Canopy", which you might find interesting if you don't already know it.

My point about Anderson, and the same holds true for Hobsbawm, is that they both relied on social constructionism in their epistemology, but made no reference to the fons et origo of the theory. Nor, indeed, as far as I recall, do they refer to Durkheim. I take the view that one should be open about one's intellectual antecedents. Actually, Hobsbawm is an anti-theory person anyway and I have heard him reject theorising quite openly.

Yours sincerely,
György Schöpflin

 

*****

Dear Professor Schöpflin,

I'm writing in order to share some reflections concerning discussion about Central Europe from the chapter of your book ‘Dillemas of Identity' which you have suggested to me.

I will limit my reflections to the part specifically concerning Central Europe. I think that the argument about distinct from the Western one model of modernity explains very well the sense of inadequacy, underdevelopment, marginalization, incompleteness etc. in the region. Additionally you argue that both discourses of democracy and ethnicity were dominant after the collapse of communism as grounds for the new identity. I find it very interesting and I can see similar patterns of development in Poland. At the same time you claim that in the light of the weakness of the civil society and the eroded state, identity must be based on ethnicity, even if ethnicity is a poor basis for both modernity and liberty. It occurs to me that discourse on ethnicity in the context of post-communist transformation is part of larger discourse on belonging. I do not have the expertise over the whole region; however the Polish case shows that discourses of belonging and nationhood were/are at least twofold. They generally correspond to widely discussed in literature on nationalism division between ethnic and civic vision of nationhood, which sometimes are discussed in terms of division between Western and Eastern concepts of nation. Although distinctively separate and mutually exclusive in theory they seem to be co-existing when it comes to practice. For example in Poland the large public debate over new constitution from 1997 has shown that and its preamble combines both the ethnic and civic elements starting with the words: ‘We, the Polish Nation - all citizens of the Republic'.

I mention this because in my research I explore recent discourses on patriotism in Poland and ethnicity is often used as a token to promote discourses of civic nationhood as opposed to exclusive belonging based on ethnicity, often (in the West) associated with xenophobic rejectionist nationalism. I wonder whether along the processes of strengthening of the state and developing of the civil society ethnicity would lose its power. Many studies point to the contrary.

Secondly, I was also thinking about how your analysis of the thought-style in the region can explain current discussions and attempts to find common grounds for European identity through collective memory (i.e by Levy and Schneider). I can see that there is a conflict not only between models of modernity, approaches to ethnicity but also when it comes to the role of the past, history and remembering. Taking those into account- is there a chance for any form of ‘integration' at all?

I look forward to hear from you,
Sincerely,
Magdalena Kania

 

*****

Dear Magdalena Kania,

Thank you for your email.

I fully subscribe to your assessment of the civic/ethnic divide, that they should not be seen as two separate, mutually exclusive categories, but are in reality mutually reinforcing, thereby giving citizenship a clear ethnic colouring. I wrote about this at length in "Nations, Identity, Power", published some years ago. It turned out that my ideas were going entirely against the current, in essence because in the West, the ideology of being post-national took off and this necessarily meant screening out the ethnic elements of, say, French, German or English identity.

To make matters worse, the entire package of negative ethnicity has been exported eastwards, towards Central and especially South-Eastern Europe. The wars of Yugoslav succession - I like this term, though I'm not sure who invented it - provided the "evidence". In the West, ethnic identity has been left behind, supposedly, and nationhood is purely civic. In reality, this is nonsense and ethnic solidarity lives on, but is not called by that name.

At the same time, there is positive ethnicity as well, but that applies only to the cultures of Third World cultures or, to be precise, the parts of the cultures that migrants are allowed to keep. There is no question of reproducing the languages of immigrant communities, for example.

All this implies that the old-established West-East cleavage line is alive and well in Europe, a prime example being current German attitudes towards Poland. The originator of the "good" civic nationhood and the "bad" ethnic equivalent was, of course, Hans Kohn; if you have ever read his book on nationalism, its meaning and history you will be aware that his comments on Poles and Czechs are, not to put too fine a point on it, racist. The book was published in 1944, I believe, and wartime conditions may explain some of his animosity towards Central Europe (he came from Prague, as I recall).

The dominant paradigm at the moment, I would say, is Habermas's constitutional patriotism, which looks quite attractive at first sight, but is - to my mind - deeply flawed because it simply screens out the deeper level ethnic elements that sustain collective cohesion. In brief, I would argue (and some of this argument is laid out in my Dilemmas book), there is a whole range of interlocking and mutually reinforcing factors, like language, memory, the myth-symbol complex, narratives of self, that underpin civic nationhood; and these necessarily include and exclude. Thus German citizens of Turkish background are accepted as "ours", as it were, but are nevertheless not fully members of the German community of cultural intimacy. In Britain, those of Caribbean and South Asian descent can be British, but not English. But when Germans or Brits are confronted with this, they go into denial. So, yes, ethnicity is there and is denied.

A few more thoughts. For me, the most cogent writer on thought-style theory is Mary Douglas, whose work you may well know, especially her "How Institutions Think" and "Thought Styles".

My own Dilemmas book will be published in English in late May or early June by Tallinn University Press; I'll let you have details when they are available.

Yours sincerely,
György Schöpflin

 

 

Editor's note: Professor Schöpflins book was published in 2010: Schöpflin, G. The Dilemmas of Identity, TLU Press

 


Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...

Alexander Etkind: "Internal Colonization. Russia's Imperial Experience", by Madina Tlostanowa

Read more...

Neil Lazarus: The Postcolonial Unconscious", by Blanka Grzegorczyk

Read more...

Katarzyna Marciniak and Kamil Turowski: "Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland", by Magdalena Kania Lundholm

Read more...

Sandra Ponzanesi and Bolette B. Blaagaard (Ed.): “Deconstructing Europe. Postcolonial Perspectives”, by Paulina Gąsior

Read more...

Gjoko Muratovski: The use of built environments in the formation and change of national identities: the case of Macedonia and ‘Skopje 2014’

Read more...