Decentring Europe from the Fringe: Reimagining Balkan Identities in the Films of the 1990s

Danica Jenkins, Kati Tonkin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


The reconceptualization of Europe since the end of the Cold War has necessitated the remapping of a cultural and geographical space that had been divided into disparate Eastern and Western identities for almost half a century. As the Central-East European states sought to reassert a “Western” or “European” identity after decades of cultural and political subjugation, the most eastern of the formerly communist countries were relegated to an ‘Orientalist fringe’ of New Europe. This phenomenon is particularly discernable in the case of the Balkans, with echoes of the nineteenth and early twentieth century labeling of the region as ‘Savage Europe’ or ‘oriental Europe’ frequently heard in Western media and political discourse since 1989. Focusing on a number of films which are Western (European) or transnational in production and perspective, this chapter explores how the Western gaze – through media or cultural dialogue – problematizes the Balkans as a European entity. A comparative analysis will elucidate how Western comprehension of the Balkans is predicated on the othering of the region as a savage, eastern outpost of Europe and examine how Balkan directors seek to counter such stereotyping discourse. Yet the Balkan-produced films also evidence the internalization of orientalist stereotypes and self-exoticism, reflected in the replication of the tropes of monstrosity, madness and drunkenness in many of the films. This chapter argues that such cinematic tension/interplay between the rejection and the perpetuation of Western stereotypes of Balkan history and identity is fundamental to the understanding of contemporary Balkan identities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEast, West and Centre
EditorsMichael Gott, Todd Herzog
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (Print)9780748694150
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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