South-East European History: Doing Balkan History Beyond the Balkans

Course Description: 

 Surprisingly few scholars who work on South Eastern Europe manage to read broadly across other fields and disciplines to make their work relevant to people outside the boundaries of their own nation-state and the small international scholarly community that focuses on the region.  Creating a social science framework that critically engages historical comparison, this class seeks to provide PhD and advanced MA students with social science tools that help them craft projects that ensure they have interlocutors in other fields and disciplines.  By studying anthropology and sociology alongside history, this class will emphasize diachronic comparison throughout the semester to promote new ways of approaching imperial and nation-state archives in order to explore overlooked continuums between disparate empires and their nation-state successors’ tenuous hold on the region and its peoples.  Amplifying blurry boundaries between state and non-state actors and their implications on surveillance and coercive capacities of different regimes throughout the history of the region, the class readings and discussions will also focus on different methods of approaching paper trails in archives that isolate the interactions of different types of historical actors and their networks with society and the state.  Of course, part of this inquiry is finding and approaching narrative sources in conjunction with archival materials; therefore, the class will explore how to use other types of sources such as travelogues, ego-documents, as well as folklore in sound social science inquiry to make sense of unspoken features of Balkan society shared by other societies (e.g., the popular admiration of trickster antics/screwing people over, the conventionalization of unconventional behavior, the valorization and commodification of violence, etc.). 

Learning Outcomes: 

his post-Orientalism class attempts to push students to move beyond East-West dichotomies, dwelling on the origins of backwardness or the political incorrectness of talking about people from the region in certain ways, or Westernization paradigms featured in mainstream historiography in order to promote new methodological and theoretical frameworks that help tease out important social issues and dynamics that Balkan societies share with other societies past and present.  This class seeks to instill in students the ability to demonstrate how diachronic comparisons between twentieth-century processes and their pre-1876 Treaty of Berlin antecedents in Ottoman, Hapsburg, or Venetian rule over the region help explain recurring phenomenon like para-militarism, persistent ambiguous marauding/racketeering organizations like četa that do the “dirty work” of the state, the heroization and economy of violent, macho/misogynist behavior, etc.  Other important social issues the class will help students mine out of Balkan history for comparison are: inter/intra confessional/ethnic relations, tolerance and intolerance, governmental vs. “private” disciplining, coercion, and rackets in empire and modern democratic as well as totalitarian states, violence as a legitimate means of political brokerage, knowledge and intelligence transfers, post-colonial conflict and civil war as a legacy of the outsourcing of imperial violence, hegemonic masculinities, ecology and environmental history, as well memory and the tenuous appropriation of ambiguous histories and folklore cultures in the crafting of Balkan nation states.  Whether one works on early modern empires or democratic versus totalitarian nation-states, this class seeks to provide students the tools to read broadly and tease out governmental technologies and knowledge production many regimes and their societies feature throughout history. 


Attendance. Attendance in all class meetings is mandatory.  Up to two excused absences are allowed, if the professor is notified before the class. Any further absences will result in an automatic decrease of the final grade by half a letter grade.   Students should come to class on time and are not allowed to surf the internet during class.

Discussion Leading Activity and Class Participation. (40 Points): every student will be in charge of leading the discussions at least two or three times during the semester depending on class size.  This does not mean that the student simply gives a summary of the article or book chapter that everyone has already read. Rather, it means that the student should ask 5 questions or raise points of contention/criticism about the article that will stimulate conversation in the classroom.  It is in this discussion of the questions that the presenter can offer her own opinion and answer to her questions, only after other students have attempted to address them.  In this sense, the students will be evaluated on their ability to stimulate and sustain an intellectual conversation with her peers and professor.

Every student will be expected to come to every class and actively participate in the class discussions.

3 Response Papers (60 Points Total—20 points each): 3 three-to-five-page response papers on two or more readings of their choice taken from the different class units. The first response paper has to be submitted on 28 January (and can include that week’s reading of course), 3 March, and 31 March.  In response papers, students should not provide a mere summary of the readings’ contents but are expected to write an analytical paper that has a thesis and a point, compares and contrasts different authors’ approaches in an intelligible manner, and offers the student’s personal opinion regarding the works compared.  I am looking for what the students personally have (or do not have) at stake in the readings.  The papers can also make use of readings from previous weeks to develop further the student’s analysis, as long as two different texts from the current unit are analyzed.