Politics of Othering: Anglo-American Politicians and Intellectuals and the Representation of Socialist Yugoslavia

  • Abstract:

    Reinventing Eastern Europe, or else making the other, falls into a common rubric of how we understand the self and how we give meanings and orders to the world. However, the relationship between the imagining (the self) and the imagined (the other) is not unidirectional, nor are the imageries of the other static; any representation has its own spatio-temporality and is constantly in a state of flux, insomuch as a representation of the other is invented and reinvented through interactions between the self and the other. This paper seeks to thematize this observation by exploring how the Western, in particular Anglo-American, intellectuals and politicians imagine Socialist Yugoslavia and how Yugoslavs challenge, or even negate, Western imageries of themselves. Initially, for Anglo-American intellectuals and politicians, Socialist Yugoslavia represented an alternative mode of socialist governing, which was not necessarily hostile to the Western ideology of liberal capitalist democracy. The initial perception of the Anglo-American intellectuals and politicians towards Yugoslavia, therefore, was pragmatic, merely reflecting the Western geopolitical concern of the Cold War period. Such a perception, in turn, created a space for Yugoslav politicians and intellectuals to articulate a self-image as ‘third way’, the in-between. The paper seeks to go beyond the claim that Yugoslav self-designation was a mereproduct of geopolitics of the time; it was constitutive of the Western self, andmore importantly the capacity of the other, Yugoslavs, to self-designate certainly challenged the seemingly static Orientalist and Balkanist self-other hierarchical relationship, wherein only ‘us’ had capacity to represent ‘them’. The Yugoslav self-designation as the in-between became a source of a growing anxiety among the Western intellectuals and politicians, insofar as it challenged the static hierarchy of the imagining and the imagined, which subsequently necessitated, on the West’s part, reimagining of Yugoslavia.