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Imagining the Balkans

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"If the Balkans hadn't existed, they would have been invented" was the verdict of Count Hermann Keyserling in his famous 1928 publication, Europe. Over ten years ago, Maria Todorova traced the relationship between the reality and the invention. Based on a rich selection of travelogues, diplomatic accounts, academic surveys, journalism, and belles-lettres in many languages, Imagining the Balkans explored the ontology of the Balkans from the sixteenth century to the present day, uncovering the ways in which an insidious intellectual tradition was constructed, became mythologized, and is still being transmitted as discourse.

Maria Todorova, who was raised in the Balkans, is in a unique position to bring both scholarship and sympathy to her subject, and in a new afterword she reflects on recent developments in the study of the Balkans and political developments on the ground since the publication of Imagining the Balkans. The afterword explores the controversy over Todorova's coining of the term Balkanism. With this work, Todorova offers a timely, updated, accessible study of how an innocent geographic appellation was transformed into one of the most powerful and widespread pejorative designations in modern history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Outstanding."—Misha Glenny, London Review of Books

"Passionate, learned, entertaining, polemical, ambitious, courageous."—Slavic Review

"Contains many brilliant insights and always displays the author's enormous erudition."—CHOICE

"Todorova's book is a passionate, provocative, and necessary attempt to retrace the construction of a pejorative image of the Balkans."—Nicholas J. Miller, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Full of challenging ideas, forcefully presented opinions, references for further reading, and enlightening observations."-Gale Stokes, H-Net

"By far the best work of historiography on the region."- Tomislav Z. Longinovic, Lingua Franca

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195387865
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/15/2009
  • Edition description: Updated Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Maria Todorova is Gutgsell Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Balkanism and the Orientalism: Are They Different Categories?
1. The Balkans: Nomen
2. "Balkans" as Self-designation
3. The Discovery of the Balkans
4. Patterns of Perception until 1900
5. From Discovery to Invention, from Invention to Classification
6. Between Classification and Politics: The Balkans and the Myth of Central Europe
7. The Balkans: Realia -Qu'est-ce qu'il y a de hors-texte?
Afterword to the Updated Edition

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2000

    Understanding the Balkans

    I've read many books on Balkan history and current events in the past year. None has covered the ground as thoroughly, or shed more light on the encounter between the Balkans and the West. Reflecting exceptionally wide reading combined with the crucial sense of realities on the ground that eludes many meta-commentators on matters Balkan, this book is must reading for anyone serious about understanding the Balkan conundrum. One should note that it is not an easy read, and is occasionally marred by infelicities of expression. But of a hundred books I've read or skimmed in the field this past year, this one takes pride of place.

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