Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Fools' Crusade," Diana Johnstone, and ethnic nationalism, Part 2

"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."

[As before, the underlined words in the above text were italicized in the original.]

First, note right off that Johnstone refers to national groups as singular entities, with uniform traits. The tendency is not as pronounced in this particular excerpt, but I selected this paragraph for further review because we get Johnstone at her slavishly pro-Serb finest; regurgitating 'Balkan' terminology and definitions without so much as a glance at the history of Balkan nationalism, modern state development, (which, in the Balkans, I date from 1804, when Serbia won its indepedence from the Ottoman Empire), and ethnic identity.

For someone who has been called "the outstanding Left analyst of the Balkans" (we can thank Edward Herman for that quote), and who frequently resorts to historical precedents in order to justify or frame contemporary events in the region, Johnstone seems blissfully unaware of the the imperfect, and fluid, nature of national/ethnic identity in the region.

To speak of 'narod' as being "notably" defined by "common language" while drawing hard and fast distinctions between Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims is pretty laughable--a more honest and reflective (not to mention even marginally informed) observer might be expected to note that "Serbian," "Croatian" and "Bosnian" are all essentially creations of imposed, and rather arbitrary, divisions based on ethnicity. Linguistic maps referred to "Serbo-Croat" for a reason; we are concerned with easily intellible dialects of the same language. And in many cases, not even that much of a distinction can be claimed--there are dialects in Serbo-Croat, but they don't always follow ethnic divisions. Rather, the divisions were geographical, not 'ethnic,' in nature.

Since Johnstone has adopted the logic of her Serb nationalist allies--that ethnic nationality was the basis of the Yugoslav system, that Yugoslavia was a land of 'nations' and that only nations, not the republics, had the right to break it apart as a result--one might expect that she has thought through some of the implications of this line of reasoning. She presents herself not as an advocate of Serb ultra-nationalism, but as an informed, objective observer of the situation. Therefore, she should not feel compelled to defend or accept the troubling implications of 'narod' versus 'narodnost.'

What are these issues? In my next post, we will examine them.

5 comments:

Srebrenica Massacre said...

Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs are three main ethnic groups of Bosnia-Herzegovina and constitute Bosnian nation or Bosnian nationality.

These three ethnic groups are not nations. There is a real confussion in the Balkans with respect to the the terms "ethnic group" and "nation". In other words, people are having hard time understanding the difference between the two.

When you ask ordinary Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs, and Bosnian Croats about their nationality, they will most likely say that their nationality is Bosniak, or Bosnian Serb, or Bosnian Croat. This is in part leftover from communist system who propagated that Yugoslavia is a country of nations, which was ludicrous argument to make, because Yugoslavia WAS a Nation.

Yakima_Gulag said...

I have a longer comment on what you've said s.m. at my own blog.I don't want to put something too long in someone else's blog.

Anonymous said...

To blame Diane Johnstone for a "pro-Serb stance" is an interesting way to cement prejudice. Still, thinking for oneself does not do any harm - why not try it, it might help....

Owen said...

Why do people who can't be bothered to identify themselves imagine that anything they say should be paid the slightest bit of attention?

Srebrenica Massacre said...

anonymous,
you should flush your philosohpy down the toilet, we are talking about facts here. It is the fact that she is Pro-Serb. I personally spoke to her, and she did not hide her pro-Serb stance from me.