‘The Place of Violence Itself’: Continuity and Rupture in the Imaginative Geographies of Post-Yugoslav Cinema

Ross Cameron, University of Glasgow

This paper examines films set in the post-Yugoslav space and highlights both the ruptures and unacknowledged continuities in the imaginative geographies of the cinemas of ‘self-balkanization’ (Longinović 2005) and ‘normalization’ (Pavičić 2014). Produced during the period of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001) and identified primarily with the work of Emir Kusturica, the cinema of self-balkanisation represents the post- Yugoslav space as a timeless land of violence, hyper-masculinity and ethnic tensions. This cinematic movement reflects imaginative geographies of the Balkans constituted by the West European discourse of ‘balkanism’ (Todorova 1997). On the other hand, the cinema of normalisation, which accompanied the political normalisation of the early 2000s, seeks to resist essentialisation and legitimise the Balkan Peninsula’s position within Europe. Despite stylistic differences between these filmic movements, this paper argues that they remain somewhat synchronous in their rendering of the Balkans as a pre-modern region spatially dislocated from and temporally behind ‘Europe’. More broadly, it underscores the extent to which neo-colonial imaginative geographies are ‘intimate enemies’ (Nandy 1983), as they are internalised and deployed even by those who explicitly aim to resist them.

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