Mitja Velikonja is Professor of Cultural Studies, head of Center for Cultural and Religious Studies at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Dr. Velikonja’s main areas of research include Central-European and Balkan political ideologies, subcultures and graffiti culture, collective memory and post-socialist nostalgia. His most recent publication is Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe (Routledge, 2020). His contribution to the symposium is a webinar he gave earlier this year at the European Studies Council at the MacMillan Center, Yale University, where he was Visiting Professor.
“The Balkans: Tragic Avant-Garde of Europe”
Europe today is facing similar socio-political challenges, tendencies and tensions as the Balkans thirty years ago. Similar are also – in my view – inappropriate measures and proposed solutions to them, so different from the solemn promises of politicians and even more from enthusiastic expectations of people at the beginning of the so-called “democratic transition” in the years 1989-1992. In this case, negative exceptionalism of the Balkans proved to be in fact anticipation of recent developments in Europe, such as separatisms, erecting new walls and sealing new borders, ethnic chauvinism, Islamophobia, refugee crises, civilizations clash and culture wars, destructiveness of neo-liberalism and financial capitalism in general, brain drain etc. Tragic fate of the Balkans in the nineties should serve as warning where un-reflected neo-liberal and ethno-nationalist politics can easily lead, with a catastrophic consequences.
Mitja’s Power Point presentation, “The Balkans as Tragic Avantgarde” (Politics of Divine – “Clash of Civilizations” – Neoracism – “Dangers of Multiculturalism” – Tearing down bridges).