Manfred Pfister and Ralf Hertel (eds). Performing Anglo-Italian Cultural Transactions. New York and Amserdam, 2008. ISBN: 978-90-420-2314-7. List Price €65.00 (Paper).
National identity is not some naturally given or metaphysically sanctioned racial or territorial essence that only needs to be conceptualised or spelt out in discursive texts; it emerges from, takes shape in, and is constantly defined and redefined in individual and collective performances. It is in performances—ranging from the scenarios of everyday interactions to ‘cultural performances’ such as pageants, festivals, political manifestations or sports, to the artistic performances of music, dance, theatre, literature, the visual and culinary arts and more recent media—that cultural identity and a sense of nationhood are fashioned. National identity is not an essence one is born with but something acquired in and through performances.
Particularly important here are intercultural performances and transactions, and that not only in a colonial and postcolonial dimension, where such performative aspects have already been considered, but also in inner-European transactions. ‘Englishness’ or ‘Britishness’ and Italianità, the subject of this anthology, are staged both within each culture and, more importantly, in joint performances of difference across cultural borders. Performing difference highlights differences that ‘make a difference’; it ‘draws a line’ between self and other—boundary lines that are, however, constantly being redrawn and renegotiated, and remain instable and shifting.
Marion E.P. de Ras, Body, Femininity and Nationalism: Girls in the German Youth Movement 1900-1934. London: Routledge, 2007. ISBN: 9780415182553. List Price: £65.00.
This social and cultural history of girls in the German youth movements in the pre-Nazi era brings fascinating new light to bear on the history of the German youth movements. It contributes to our wider understanding of girlhood in the period, and investigates how mentalities, collective identities and German nationalism developed in the three decades before the Nazi period.
Sina Askin. Turkey: From Empire to Revolutionary Republic. New York: NYU Press, 2007. ISBN: 081470722X. List Price: $22.00
In October 2005, the European Union officially began accession negotiations with Ankara, making Turkey the first predominantly Muslim country to become a candidate for membership. Turkey is an historic crossroads, poised between Europe and Asia, Islam and Christianity, and is the fulcrum upon which great civilizations have turned.
In this authoritative history, Sina Aksin, one of Turkey's most prominent historians, traces the roots of the Turkish Republic to the Ottoman Empire. Turkey, from Empire to Revolutionary Republic treats the period before, during, and after World War I, encompassing the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Atatrk. The book closes with three chapters on the 1980s, the 1990s, and the new millennium, concluding with the question of EU accession, and will attract particular attention for the sophisticated Turkish view it provides of the contemporary period.
Unlike most histories of modern Turkey available to Western readers, this clear and compelling work offers the unique perspective of a native Turk. This sweeping narrative will be essential reading as Turkey takes its place on the world stage.
R. J. Crampton, Bulgaria. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN-10: 0198205147. List Price: £35.00
Tracing the evolution of the Bulgarian state and its people, from the beginning of the Bulgarian national revival in the middle of the nineteenth century to the entry of the country into the European Union, Richard Crampton examines key political, social, and economic developments, revealing the history of a country which evolved from a backward and troublesome Balkan state to become a modern European nation.
The formation of the first modern Bulgarian state in 1878 played a major role in Bulgaria's evolution, determining its stance in the two World Wars. Seeing the collapse as well as the establishment and evolution of communist rule, Bulgaria survived an often painful journey from monolithic authoritarianism to representative democracy and the market system. This book follows this journey, and analyses the development of Bulgaria's political culture, examining the emergence of radical movements, both agrarian and socialist, as well as looking at the role of religion and the position of minorities. Crampton highlights the problems and dilemmas created by the country's position situated between east and west, problems which might not be entirely solved by the country's admission to the EU.
Kenneth McNeil, Scotland, Britain, Empire: Writing the Highlands, 1760-1860. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780814210475. List Price: $41.95 (Cloth).
Scotland, Britain, Empire takes on a cliché that permeates writing from and about the literature of the Scottish Highlands. Popular and influential in its time, this literature fell into disrepute for circulating a distorted and deforming myth that aided in Scotland’s marginalization by consigning Scottish culture into the past while drawing a mist over harsher realities.
Kenneth McNeil invokes recent work in postcolonial studies to show how British writers of the Romantic period were actually shaping a more complex national and imperial consciousness. He discusses canonical works—the works of James Macpherson and Sir Walter Scott—and noncanonical and nonliterary works—particularly in the fields of historiography, anthropology, and sociology. This book calls for a rethinking of the “romanticization” of the Highlands and shows that Scottish writing on the Highlands reflects the unique circumstances of a culture simultaneously feeling the weight of imperial “anglobalization” while playing a vital role in its inception.
While writers from both sides of the Highland line looked to the traditions, language, and landscape of the Highlands to define their national character, the Highlands were deemed the space of the primitive—like other spaces around the globe brought under imperial sway. But this concern with the value and fate of indigenousness was in fact a turn to the modern.
Karen Steele, Women, Press, and Politics During the Irish Revival. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780815631170. List Price: $45.00 (Cloth). ISBN: 9780815631415. List Price: $24.95 (Paper)
Women, Press, and Politics explores the literary and historical significance of women’s writing for the most influential body of nationalist journalism during the Irish Revival, the advanced nationalist press.
This work studies women’s writings in the Irish nationalist tradition, focusing in particular on leading female voices in the cultural and political movements that helped launch the Easter Rising of 1916: Augusta Gregory, Alice Milligan, Maud Gonne, Constance Markievicz, Delia Larkin, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, and Louie Bennett.
Karen Steele argues that by examining the innovative work of these writers from the perspective of women’s artistry and women’s political investments, we can best appreciate the expansive range of their cultural productions and the influence these had on other nationalists, who went on to shape Irish politics and culture in the decades to come.
Rogers Brubaker, Margit Feischmidt, Jon Fox, and Liana Grancea, Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. ISBN13: 978-0-691-12834-4. List Price: $35.00 (Cloth).
Situated on the margins of two nations, yet imagined as central to each, Transylvania has long been a site of nationalist struggles. Since the fall of communism, these struggles have been particularly intense in Cluj, Transylvania’s cultural and political center. Yet heated nationalist rhetoric has evoked only muted popular response. The citizens of Cluj -- the Romanian-speaking majority and the Hungarian-speaking minority -- have been largely indifferent to the nationalist claims made in their names.
Based on extended collaborative field research, the book examines not only the sharply polarized fields of nationalist politics -- in Cluj, Transylvania, and the wider region -- but also the more fluid terrain on which ethnicity and nationhood are experienced, enacted, and understood in everyday life. Employing perspectives seldom found together -- historical and ethnographic, institutional and interactional, political and experiential -- the book addresses basic questions about ethnicity: where it is, when it matters, and how it works. Developing further the argument of Brubaker’s Ethnicity without Groups, the book demonstrates that it is ultimately in and through everyday experience -- as much as in political contestation or cultural articulation -- that ethnicity and nationhood are produced and reproduced as basic categories of social and political life.
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Eric G.E. Zuelow
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