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Imposing Particular Identities: The Balkans as a Meeting Place of Ethnicities and Religions

Since Balkan ethnicities are primarily organized along locally-practiced religious lines, regional monotheistic religions are seen as the source of the conflicts there. However, even a brief historical examination shows different patterns, where the people of the region lived in long periods of peace and solidarity while practicing their separate religious traditions. Significantly, the conflicts occurred when the Balkan people followed non-religious political processes and ideas which originated outside of the region. Hence, this paper attempts to observe the extant representations of the Balkans, examine the brief history of the region to reveal patterns of amity and enmity, and bring forth a different historical –and possible future– reality.

Imposing Particular Identities The Balkans as a Meeting Place of

Balkans: Representations and Possibilities1

This paper will argue that monotheistic religions, which have coexisted for many centuries and, in fact, mark the most important axis of the human conception of history and individual self, are not the source of the exclusivism and particularism in the Balkans which so often led to war. Rather, the conflicts are the products of political processes that originated outside of the Balkans and which are anti-religious in essence. This becomes obvious when we consider that the Balkans, throughout their history, have experienced both periods of war and long periods of peace, characterized by cross-regional solidarity among the local peoples. Multiple religions have been present in the Balkans during all its modern history; therefore, something else must have disturbed the cross-regional solidarities and caused those conflicts. Thus, religious coexistence should be considered as a natural state of being, and viewed as such by all who are looking for solutions to the Balkan issues, with the peaceful and continuous complementary existence of the people in the Balkans as the final teleology. Since the opposite position has been well advertised and emphasized among the general public through various hegemonic mechanisms for the production of representations, for us to argue otherwise is a tall order, but we have to consider the alternative to the current perspective of conflict and antagonism among different religions and ethnicities in the Balkans and elsewhere.2 This paper is just a step in the different direction, as we keep in mind that the geopolitical production of representations of regions and peoples are long-term processes3 and, as such, should be important considerations for international relations inquiry.4 Our optimistic approach to the problem at stake is not unique. Another similarly aspiring approach to inquiry was suggested by Lijphart when he noted regarding democracy that, “if politicians and political scientists are convinced that democracy cannot work in the plural societies, they will not even try to introduce it or make it work.”5 So the optimism in the quest for the ‘conflict solution’ in the Balkans will not only be an underlying part of the logic of this paper, but should also be a part of the method of proceeding in the quest of achieving lasting harmony in the region.6

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