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Imagining the Balkans Paperback – May 22, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0195087512 ISBN-10: 0195087518

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195087518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195087512
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,580,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"[This book] contains many brilliant insights and always displays the author's enormous erudition."--Choice


About the Author


Maria Todorova earned a degree in history from the University of Sofia in Bulgaria, where she taught Balkan history until 1988. She has since taught at several American universities, and is currently Professor of Balkan and East European Studies at the University of Florida.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Saunders on January 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
As a longtime student of Dr Todorova's (I was under her tutelage for about four years and still correspond with her today), I found this book to be an excellent synopsis of her personal and professional opinions and anecdotes concerning the Balkans. It was like taking my class notes and one-on-one discussions, sifting out the dates, places and events and putting a binding on them. All of her cultural theory regarding this singular region of the world is evident in the pages of Imagining the Balkans. I would suggest a thorough knowledge of Edward Said's Orientalism and at least a cursory reading of Foucault's works before jumping into this work. Maria shows little mercy for the uninitiated and this tendency become all too evident in her most recent work. For students of Balkan history, ethnocentrism, culture clashes and human nature, this work is both compelling and fascinating. This book should not be your introduction to the politics of the Balkans because it teaches us more about how those of us in the West (especially historians, political scientists and travelers) view ourselves using the mirror of the "Other."
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Edward Bosnar on May 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Imagining the Balkans" is an examination and critical analysis of perceptions of the Balkans, both by outsiders and Balkan residents. In this, Todorova emphasizes the concept of Balkanism, similar to Edward Said's Orientalism, but with some crucial differences - the main ones being that the Balkans are a more concrete concept than the rather vague "Orient," and the lack of a clear `us vs. them' dichotomy between the Balkans and the `West' (Balkan peoples are white, and largely Christian). The first chapter provides an extremely useful and informative exploration of the origins of the very word Balkan and the geographic area it was/is meant to designate over the years. The following chapters provide a historical survey and critical analysis of how the Balkans were defined and perceived, mainly by outsiders, but also by the peoples of the Balkans. There is also a much-needed critique of the concept of Central Europe which first emerged during the early 1980s. Perhaps the only shortcoming involves Todorova's frequent emphasis on her native Bulgaria and her apparent lack of expertise in relation to Yugoslavia; thus, discussion of the entire Balkans vs. Europe debate in places like Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Slovenia is completely ignored. Even more surprising is the complete lack of critical treatment of Rebecca West's "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon," perhaps one of the central texts of 20th century `Balkanism.' Nevertheless, "Imagining the Balkans" is a valuable, thought-provoking and fascinating book - one of the most important, although implicit points Todorova seems to make is that it is generally pointless, illogical and often ludicrous to imbue geographic/regional locations with a number of value-ridden stereotypes and cultural, `civilizational' designations, even as people constantly need to create such categories.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gale A. Kirking on December 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
This short study examines perceptions of the Balkans-both within the region and by outsiders-and how the region's image has changed over time. She analyzes the effects that those perceptions have had in shaping the underlying reality. This is rather an advanced work and will sometimes prove difficult reading for the nonspecialist. The author points to a certain hypocrisy in how Western Europe-just five decades after its own ethnic cleansing-views ethnic homogenization processes in the Balkans. At the same time, Todorova would not allow Balkan political leaders and intellectuals to shift blame and responsibility for their own actions to history, to foreign intervention or to five centuries of Ottoman occupation.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dragana Starcevic on December 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Maria Todorova wrote an excellent book, which is a thorough review of the political history of the Balkan Peninsula. She explains the various political interests that have always been at play in that region.The author also qoutes different foreign travellers, diplomats, and writers showing their attitudes to the countries and the nations of the Balkans. The first part of the book (the first three chapters) will be specially interesting for larger audience while the rest of the book is more theoretical. Given the current events concerning the Balkans, and especially the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, this book will be of great help to students of history, political history, their teachers and intellectuals in general.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Garrett P. Jones on January 30, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is clear from the outset that the author, an academic, wrote this book for consumption by other academics. It certainly provides a comprehensive, well-researched look at the history of perceptions, misconceptions, and stereotypes that have been applied to the region now commonly referred to as the Balkans. There is no doubt that it is important to understand how and why different aspects of Balkan identities evolved over time, and Todorova should be commended for contributing to the base of knowledge on the subject.

Unfortunately, the amount of source material that she uses becomes so much fluff and padding as the reader wades through the chapters. She probably could have said what she needed to say in about half the space; the rest just comes off as academic posturing. I would even go so far as to characterize some of it as haughty intellectualism.

Had this book not been on the required-reading list for a graduate school course, I would not have purchased it knowing what I know now. Bottom line: it is not a very accessible book. Regrettably, I cannot suggest an alternative volume for someone interested in learning more about this topic.

To cut to the chase of the argument, I suggest focusing on chapter 7 and the conclusion.

Reader, beware: it will take a lot of patience (or generous doses of skimming) to get through this one.
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