Maria Todorova. Imagining the Balkans.
It is difficult to imagine a person more qualified to write a book on how terms related to the concept "Balkan" have entered common usage and achieved a certain meaning than Maria Todorova. Professor Todorova was born and brought up in Bulgaria, received a Ph.D. from Sofia University, lived in Greece, studied extensively in Moscow, Leningrad, Paris, and Oxford, speaks fluent German, and presently lives in the United States, where she works in English. In her book she cites sources in English, German, French, Bulgarian, Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, and Russian, and perhaps some I missed. In other words, here is a person who has not only a good finger-tip feel for her native Balkans, but the training, linguistic ability, and intellectual firepower to provide a systematic and enlightening study of how the Balkans are imagined.
Contrary to what someone who had not read her previous work on the subject might initially expect, Todorova argues that Balkanism is not another form of Orientalism, as Milica Bakic-Hayden has proposed. Her reasons are that 1) the Balkans are concrete, whereas the notion of "the Orient" is vague and intangible; 2) Orientalism is a refuge from the alienation of industrialization, a metaphor for the forbidden--feminine, sensual, even sexual. Balkanism, on the other hand, is not forbidden or sensual. It is male, primitive, crude, and disheveled; 3) Balkanism is a transitional concept, something not quite non-European, not a final dichotomy; 4) the self-perception of Balkan peoples is not colonial; 5) Orientalism posits Islam as the other, whereas Balkanism deals with Christian peoples; 6) Orientalism is fundamentally racist, categorizing non-white people, whereas Balkanism deals with whites; and 7) Balkan self-identity is itself created against an oriental other.
Having solidly made this point, Todorova goes on to chronicle the emergence of the idea of Balkan, both as a concept of outsiders and as a self-perception of insiders. Her chapters progress in a logical and orderly fashion from the discovery of the Balkans in the early modern period, through varied patterns of perception in the nineteenth century, to the twentieth century invention of "Balkan" and "Balkanization" as negative categories, schimpfwoerter, as she calls them. Along the way she provides numerous insights into the construction of categories. For example, she proposes that the discovery of the Balkan Slavs as an oppressed people in the mid to late nineteenth century by British travelers was related to the Victorian discovery of the poor. This suggestive observation is related to two broad patterns of perception she observes during the nineteenth century, the aristocratic and the bourgeois. The former, held early in the nineteenth century, particularly by British travelers, sympathized with the Ottoman ruling class and the power they represented. The bourgeois view tended to sympathize with the Balkan peoples, who were understood to be perhaps backwards, but having the potential, at least, of entering onto the linear highway of progress.