The past was ubiquitous in South Eastern Europe in the 1990s. On the one hand, historical analogies were widely and tendentiously used by observers and participants to render comprehensible the numerous conflicts that scarred the region, as the scripting of the Kosovo war of 1999 as a re-run of the Second World War exemplified. On the other hand, 'history' was also commonly adduced as a significant factor actually causing those conflicts. Western policy-makers and pundits interpreted them as the product of ancient ethnic enmities unleashed by the collapse of communism, while indigenous nationalists concocted extravagant narratives of historical victimization and destiny to ground new identities and mobilize populations for war. These representations exerted an important influence upon trends in scholarship on the region through the same period. First, the long-term genealogies of western 'Balkanist' perceptions were elaborated by historians, anthropologists and literary critics. Second, nationalist mythologizing was deconstructed by scholars positing alternative socio-economic and political causes of the violence. Third, drawing on wider bodies of scholarship exploring the work of memory under and after state socialism and in relation to the trauma of war, connections between memory,identity and war in the region began to be scrutinized. Of particular interest here were the role of historical narratives in grounding national and other senses of identity, the efforts by nationalists to co-opt or stimulate private memories of past traumas and wrongdoings as part of these projects (including the broader issue of the resistance to or negotiation of would be dominant memories at local levels) and the question of the agency of 'history'. The papers within this collection, first delivered at a conference organized by the University of Wales Centre for the Study of South Eastern Europe in 2000, contribute to the growing body of scholarship on these issues.
- South Eastern Europe