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The Western Imaginary and the Imagined  Strategies against it in the New European  Countries and the Margins of Eastern Europe

(Working Paper)

Lia Tsuladze, May 2012

Paper prepared for the Euroacademia, International Conference "Re-Inventing Eastern Europe"

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Abstract:

The following paper discusses how the Western imaginary or the way "the West looks East" reinforces the construction of "unstable" or ambivalent identities in the Eastern European countries, as well as the margins of Eastern Europe. Particularly, it deals with the Western discourses that locate Eastern Europe and its margins in the ambivalent state of spatiotemporal transitionality, and explores the possible defense strategies of the latter. The abovementioned Western discourses are roughly divided by the author in the stigmatizing and enlightening ones though both imply a certain type of stigmatization. The "othering" (Todorova, 1997) and "asymmetrical" (Melegh, 2006) discourses are considered as the examples of the stigmatizing discourse, while "civilizational discourse" (Elias, 1994), which is translated into the "elitist discourse" within the local settings, is considered as an example of the enlightening discourse. Furthermore, two extreme ways of "symbolic escape" by the Eastern European countries (the cases of Poland and Romania) and the margins of Europe (the case of Georgia) are discussed: "a radical emigration... [alongside] cultural amnesia" and a "passionate nationalism and hyperbolic pride" (Kiossev, 2002). Finally, the question is posed whether these strategies can help avoid stigmatization. Based on both the researches by other scholars and the recent cross-cultural research conducted among the youth in Romania, Poland and Georgia by the author of this paper, it is illustrated that such means of "symbolic escape" can cause further stigmatization and be largely responsible for a kind of "failure discourse" characteristic to the representatives of the abovementioned Eastern European countries and the margins of Eastern Europe