Monday, August 21, 2006

"Fools' Crusade," Diana Johnstone, and ethnic nationalism

As I noted in my previous post, the book begins to edge ever closer to an outright endorsement of the logic of ethnic cleansing. That is a strong statement, and since she hasn't, as far as I know, ever openly stated that she supported ethnic cleansing in practice or theory, I should digress from my blow-by-blow account of "Fools' Crusade" to explain that statement.

Johnstone does not openly endorse the racist ideology that is was the intellectual foundation of the genocidal project in Bosnia. I can't even say for sure that she is aware of how far into pre-modern, tribalist thinking she has slipped.

Her fault is twofold: first, as a staunch collectivist of the old Left, Johnstone is prone to thinking in terms of group identity exclusively. She assumes, thoughout this book, that nations have characteristics, and that aggregate bodies of people 'feel' or 'believe' (singular, not plural) things and ideas as a group.

The second point on which Johnstones reasoning founders is her embrace of an imperfect, mythologized history of the Balkans--specifically, the Serbian version. Johnstone's status as a left-leaning expert on the region is laughable given how shallow and unexamined her assumptions about the region are.

We have a good example of both of these tendancies in her reason at one point, in section 3 ('Invisible Croatia'),

"The term narod as understood in the Balkans is extremely hard to grasp elsewhere and is a source of endless confusion and misunderstanding. Narod means a people with the cultural attributes of a nation--notably a common language. In Yugoslavia, the narodi were the peoples whose principal political home was in Yugoslavia: Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, and, after 1970, a new "nationality" called "Muslims." In addition, a second term, narodnost (plural narodnosti) designated nationalities whose main political home was in another state: Albanians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Turks, Slovaks, and so on. All enjoyed cultural rights, centering on the use of their mother tongue in schools, lawcourts, cultural establishments, and so on. Yugoslavia defined itself as a "multinational" country, not as "multi-ethnic" or "multicultural."

[In the original text, the terms I have underlined were in italics--since I've chosen to italicize all quotes from the book, the underlining is to indicate the emphasis in the original.]

I quote this paragraph in its entirety not only because I want to confront the logic underlying the entire construct of thought, but also because it is interesting to see how far Johnstone will let the contradictions and troubling aspects of her thinking work themselves out on paper without, seemingly, troubling her in the slightest. In my next post, I will discuss, first, what Johnstone thinks she is saying, and then the logical and factual fallacies that undermine her position, here and elsewhere.

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