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The Sacrificed Body

The Sacrificed Body: Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom

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    The Sacrificed Body
    Book Description:

    Living in one of the world's most volatile regions, the people of the Balkans have witnessed unrelenting political, economic, and social upheaval. In response, many have looked to building communities, both psychologically and materially, as a means of survival in the wake of crumbling governments and states. The foundational structures of these communities often center on the concept of individual sacrifice for the good of the whole. Many communities, however, are hijacked by restrictive ideologies, turning them into a model of intolerance and exclusion.InThe Sacrificed Body,Tatjana Aleksic examines the widespread use of the sacrificial metaphor in cultural texts and its importance to sustaining communal ideologies in the Balkan region. Aleksic further relates the theme to the sanctioning of ethnic cleansing, rape, and murder in the name of homogeneity and collective identity. Aleksic begins her study with the theme of the immurement of a live female body in the foundation of an important architectural structure, a trope she finds in texts from all over the Balkans. The male builders performing the sacrificial act have been called by a higher power who will ensure the durability of the structure and hence the patriarchal community as a whole.In numerous examples ranging from literature to film and performance art, Aleksic views the theme of sacrifice and its relation to exclusion based on gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, or politics for the sake of community building. According to Aleksic, the sacrifice narrative becomes most prevalent during times of crisis brought on by wars, weak governments, foreign threats, or even globalizing tendencies. Because crisis justifies the very existence of restrictive communities, communalist ideology thrives on its perpetuation. They exist in a symbiotic relationship. Aleksic also acknowledges the emancipatory potential of a genuine community, after it has shaken off its ideological character.Aleksic employs cultural theory, sociological analysis, and human rights studies to expose a historical narrative that is predominant regionally, if not globally. As she determines, in an era of both Western and non-Western neoliberalism, elitist hegemony will continue to both threaten and bolster communities along with their segregationist tactics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7913-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: The Legendary Roots of Community Construction
    (pp. 1-20)

    The immurement of a female body into the foundations of an edifice, usually a bridge, city walls, or a monastery, is a common trope known to exist in numerous variations in all literary traditions of the Balkan region. The Serbian epic poemThe Building of Skadarand the Greek balladThe Bridge of Artashare a common narrative model: Builders gather around the task of constructing an edifice of unique beauty and importance. They work hard during the day, but each night their structure is razed by a supernatural power that demands a human sacrifice to support the foundations. The...

  2. CHAPTER 1 Community, Power, and the Body
    (pp. 21-45)

    Anthropological, feminist, and even psychoanalytical studies frequently posit the motif of human sacrifice as a culturally nonspecific event, as a “civilizational” act par excellence. Many of their propositions are in tune with the imagery found in the Balkan legend of immurement. The well-known Freudian establishing of parricide as the founding social event inTotem and Taboo(1913) stipulates the origin of society as disloyalty to the father and subsequent conflict and rivalry among brothers. Freud’s sacrificial victim is the mythical aging and weakened patriarch/king, whose social position is challenged by younger and healthier men. By sacrificing the father (and consuming...

  3. CHAPTER 2 A Failed Dream of a Balkan Community
    (pp. 46-78)

    The fact that the legend of immurement survives in many different forms and continues to be recognized as a cultural topos in the Balkans perhaps points to a conflicting dynamic of the region as a historically traumatized space and of its populations as a colorful, if occasionally explosive mix. The sacrificial myth itself, however, is frequently employed as a figure of speech in the self-description of ethnoreligious communities throughout the region, as well as depictions of the region by outside observers. During the Yugoslav wars of secession and succession in the 1990s, the period that many tendentiously referred to as...

  4. CHAPTER 3 The Geek National Identity as the Father’s Testament
    (pp. 79-109)

    Even the most exclusive ethnoreligious, gender, or racial policies tend to demonstrate relative tolerance of inassimilable bodies at a time when the community experiences a period of peace or prosperity. However, the process of the establishment of authority in a community in crisis, or the (re)definition of the very concept of community, is the pivotal point that creates conditions in which violent exclusion of element(s) failing a full absorption by the uniform “common spirit” becomes the norm. As I discuss in the introduction, I define acrisisas any point in the existence of a community at which it increases...

  5. CHAPTER 4 The Yugoslav Cadavre Exquis: The Return of the Repressive
    (pp. 110-150)

    In the closing scenes of Želimir Žilnik’sRani radovi(Early works) (1969), three angry men in factory overalls march through a proletarian neighborhood, grab a young woman by the arm, lead her out into the open field, and threaten to rape her. She defiantly confronts them and challenges their manliness. They are old friends, and she accuses them of cowardice and the inability to go all the way in anything they commenced in the past. The men shoot her, cover her corpse with a flag, and set it on fire with a handmade petrol bomb.

    The title of Žilnik’s film,...

  6. CHAPTER 5 Demystifying the Sacrificial Imperative of History
    (pp. 151-184)

    Literature’s fascination with History (capital letter intended), the relationship that treats history as a metacognitive force existing outside of human influence and imparting its deadly blows upon us with divine disinterestedness, is a common trope. Much has been written about the awe with which humans, individuals and collectives alike, await these devastating blows and their helplessness in the face of history. Modernism tends to rewrite it as the individual’s “problem with history,” the subject’s valiant struggle as a failure marked with Sisyphean pathos. Not even the postmodern proverbial “playfulness” in the vision of history as a backdrop for many a...

  7. CONCLUSION: Community, Communalism, Communism
    (pp. 185-198)

    A TV sketch by the Sarajevan New Primitives collective, which aired sometime in the late 1980s, illustrates the absence of political ambition and ideals among contemporary youth when juxtaposed with the generation of their parents, the protesters of 1968: joining student protests after decades of hiding in the forest, unaware that Tito’s repercussions for 1968 had long ceased, a former protest leader arrives at an unnamed Bosnian university in the 1980s, complete with his Jimmy Hendrix gear and a guitar. Greeted by students who protest by shouting, “We want goals!” “We need ideas!” and “Meat in every meal!” the “veteran...