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The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 7, Issue 2, February 2005

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

Latin America

The Promise and Peril of Democracy (Full Text of Speech)
Jimmy Carter

The Promise and Peril of Democracy (Summary)
Joseph Proietti

Threat Resurges for Venezuelan NGOs [Spanish Translation]
Antonio L. Itriago and Miguel Ángel Itriago

Transparency Versus Government Supervision in Peru [Spanish Translation]
Beatriz Parodi Luna

Federal Law for the Promotion of Civil Society Organizations in Mexico
Consuelo Castro

Active Without Recognition: Obstacles to Development of the Colombian Third Sector
Adriana Ruiz-Restrepo

The Role of the Media in the Consolidation of Democracy in Latin America
The Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars

Articles

Philanthropy and Law in South Asia: Key Themes and Key Choices
Mark Sidel and Iftekhar Zaman

The Role of a National Donor Association: A U.S. Perspective
Robert Buchanan

California’s Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004
Thomas Silk and Rosemary Fei

Progress on Civil Society Legislation in Turkey
Filiz Bikmen

Taxation of Grants in Russia
Yulia Checkmaryova

Reviews

Civil Society
By Michael Edwards
Reviewed by Stephan Klingelhofer

The Law of Charities
By Peter Luxton
Reviewed by Richard Fries

Does Civil Society Matter?: Governance in Contemporary India
Edited by Rajesh Tandon & Ranjita Mohanty
Reviewed by Bindu Sharma

Governing Nonprofit Organizations: Federal and State Law and Regulation
By Marion R. Fremont-Smith
Reviewed by Michael Bisesi

Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory
Edited by Maria Todorova
Reviewed by Gerald M. Easter

Something to Believe In: Politics, Professionalism and Cause Lawyering
By Stuart A. Scheingold and Austin Sarat
Reviewed by Patricia Lyons

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Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory

Edited by Maria Todorova
Reviewed by Gerald M. Easter*  

There are no such things as “Balkan ghosts,” so goes this new volume edited by Maria Todorova. Balkan Identities is a collection of essays that grew out of a conference held in June 1999, in the immediate wake of NATO’s bombing campaign of Milosevic’s Yugoslavia. The participants included historians, anthropologists, and literary scholars of the various nations that inhabit the Balkan Peninsula. The conference was intended to facilitate a dialogue among these experts in order to elaborate the diversity of historical understanding and collective memory in this region and to debunk the recently revived “historical legend” of a distinctive “Balkan mentality.”

Maria Todorova lays out the main goals of the volume in a nicely presented introductory chapter that touches on the theoretical foundations of the study of collective memory and presents the case against a distinct Balkan memory. “There are varieties of individual and group memories in the Balkans, but no single Balkan memory,” she writes. While collective memories exist among particular people in the region, any discussion a “Balkan-wide mentality should be carefully contextualised and historicised.” Todorova makes a good point in this regard, but perhaps goes too far. The histories of the people of the region are so interwoven that it does not seem unreasonable to speak of a Balkan experience, granted that each national group will view that experience differently. There certainly are commonalities to a “Northern" European or “Southern” European experience shared by people who nonetheless have distinct historical memories.

But perhaps the Balkans are treated differently by scholars, such that the commonalities of the region are more apt to be reified. Todorova takes umbrage over the double standard applied by Western analysts, who believe that the instances of interethnic violence in the Balkans somehow make the people of the region more “irrational” than those engaged in warfare elsewhere. She does not trivialize the relevance of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Communist historical legacies, but insists that “legacies are not perennial, let alone primordial.” She disparages the way in which popular myths intersect with scientific knowledge in the scholarly discourse on the Balkans. Todorova sees this book as an attempt “to normalise the Balkans” and to extract the region from the chauvinism and parochialism that has long plagued Balkan studies. 

The book does not seek to break new theoretical ground regarding collective memory, but rather to offer examples of the rich diversity of memory among the peoples of the Balkans. The substantive chapters are organized into three broad themes: the creation of historical memory; the manifestations of national memory; and the transmission of national identities. The impressive list of authors comprises many of the leading young scholars in their respective fields. Space prohibits mention of the all the individual chapters, so what follows is a summation of the major themes along with a few examples.

The first set of essays concern time and space in the formation of historical memory. The essays explore how perceptions of place and local identity become entwined with and manipulated to fit a more encompassing national narrative. Also, the themes of the ancient past and medieval glories long gone are incorporated into the modern national project. The cases are drawn from Kosovo, Greece, Turkey, Albania, and Bulgaria. In these cases, historical memory is articulated and passed from individual to group through various media, including personal narratives, oral history, folklore, literature, and film. The chapters attempt to explain how historical events, battles, and personalities are molded into the defining myths of a particular story of a people, a national ideology. Milaca Balic-Hayden, for example, relates the story of the epic Serbian poem, “The Finding of the Head of Prince Lazar,” in which Lazar’s severed noggin, submerged in a stream for forty years, miraculously rolls across a field to a nearby monastery to be rejoined with its body. The story is meant to symbolize “the rebirth of the Serbian nation.” Kosovo, likewise, is more than just a physical or historical place in Serbian national identity, but a spiritual place. 

The second set of essays focuses on the “masonry” of national memory--the monuments, statues, war memorials, street and place names, and the faces on banknotes that reinforce a collective national memory. These are depicted as “memory sites” that enshrine the image of the immortal heroes and antiheroes in the national saga. Dunja Rihtman-Augustin, for example, tells how the main square in Zagreb has served as a focal point in the “constructing and erasing” of Croatian national memory through the statue for Ban Jelacic, a 19th century champion of Croatian national revival, whose stone visage has undergone cycles of display and removal depending on the politics of the moment. Anastasia Karakasidou, meanwhile, uses the image of Pavlos Melas, a martyred turn-of-the-century Greek partisan, which became pervasive in the consumer culture in the early 1990s, coinciding with heightened nationalist tensions over Macedonia.

In the final set of essays, the theme shifts to the transmission of national memories in document form. These authors investigate the shaping of national historiography and the writing of school textbooks. In a smartly written chapter, Diana Mishkova compares the uses of tradition in the formation of Romanian and Serbian national identities as part of the political competition among liberals, conservatives, and radicals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The different chapters hang together nicely, which is not always the case with collected books of this type. The editorial decision not to impose a rigid conceptual or theoretical scheme on the authors worked to the overall benefit of the volume. The book offers a rich store of instances of the formation of collective national memory. In so doing, the book is successful in its attempt to show the array of particularist variations in memory and identity among the inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula. The book is most suitable for graduate students, regional specialists, and social scientists concerned with identity politics.

Notes

* Gerald M. Easter is a professor of political science at Boston College. He is the author of Reconstructing the State: Personal Networks and Elite Identity in Soviet Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and Fiscal Crisis and the Post-Communist State: Politics of Revenue Bargaining in Poland and Russia (forthcoming).

 

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