Race and Racism in the Balkans
The 2020 Balkan Society for Theory and Practice [BSTP] workshop, which will be held in Prishtina, Kosova, will focus on the unique processes of racialization, ethnicization, and Othering particular to the Balkan region. While Eastern European countries have historically been situated within the so-called Orient, recent patterns of migration, the emergence of post-socialist nationalisms, an increase in Islamophobic discourse, and the efforts of Eastern European countries to gain membership in the EU have led to multiple and new expressions of racialization in the region. BSTP invites research from international scholars, activists, and artists from a variety of disciplines and perspectives who consider racialization as it exists and is expressed in the Balkans.
Western European nations, especially those belonging to the EU in recent years, continue to promote the racialization of religious differences between Balkan Muslims, who are encouraged to recognize themselves as European, white, and secular, and Arab Muslims, who are regarded as 'jihadists,' 'religious extremists,' and therefore 'bad Muslims.' The increase of North Africans seeking refuge in European nations has been met with new modes of surveillance, especially along national borders, which relies upon a re-drawing of 'self' and 'Other.' Eastern Europeans, who have historically fallen on the side of 'Other' in the Orient/Occident divide, are now encouraged to identify as European, and thus as 'self,' in order to safeguard and consolidate the white identity of Europe. Such identifications with 'Europeanness' and 'modernity' are not separable from racial ideologies.
Considering Fatima El-Tayeb's argument that, "[while] racializations always pretend to name natural, unchanging, obvious facts, they are [in reality] always ambiguous, shifting, and unstable," this workshop aims to articulate the ambiguous, shifting, and unstable character of race and ethnicity particular to the Balkans. Though whiteness is deeply intertwined with Eastern European nationalism, race and whiteness are largely absent from political discourse and the mainstream media. Questions of race and racism are understood to be part of decolonial and postcolonial discourses, from which Eastern Europe is usually excluded. In cases where race is taken on in Balkan Studies, it is often equated with "ethnicity." BSTP will seek to broaden this lens, bringing race and racism into focus without reducing this focus to ethnicity. As Catherine Baker claims, the history and sociology of race is global; questions of racism must be understood not as mere personal prejudice but as structurally intertwined with colonialism, ethnicity, and nationhood.
BSTP hopes to contribute to and expand an already existing discourse occurring in Eastern Europe concerning the question of race. The work of Anikoó Imre has shown that Eeastern Europe does not stand outside of race. Her contribution has been crucial especially to an analysis of anti-Romani racism. Others, such as Dušan Bjelić, have shown how an assumption of the Balkans as white precludes the possibility of exploring the function of whiteness as a racialized ideology in Eastern Europe. Others have drawn parallels with the Black diaspora to contextualize nationalism within larger global struggles for racial justice. Katherine Verdery's contribution has led to an analysis of postsocialism and postcolonialism as related and not separate spheres. We encourage contributions that engage with an already existing discourse concerning race and racism in the Balkans and beyond.
We invite submissions from all disciplines that consider, but are not limited to the following topics:
How does the production of whiteness occur in Eastern Europe given the historical Occident/Orient divide?
What processes of Othering have remained constant in the case of Roma peoples such that they continue to be the most oppressed community in the Balkan region?
How does the transnational character of Roma peoples challenge nationalism? How is this transnational character perceived as anti-modern and primitive?
How do we best analyze the violent discrimination of Roma peoples and/or the romanticizes image of Roma peoples on TV and film?
How has nationalist discourse and the drive to gain membership in the EU affected the identity of Eastern Europeans?
How does race and racism in the Balkans compare to the geo-political contexts of the US and Western Europe?
What affect does an emerging multiculturalist discourse have on the secularization of Balkan Muslims?
Has racial and/or ethnic identification changed in Eastern Europe since the dissolution of Yugoslavia?
What is the relationship between ethnicity and race? Why is 'ethnicity' commonly accepted as a more appropriate concept than race in the Eastern European context?
How has the homonationalist discourse permitted the continuation of Othering according to alternative socio-political identities (e.g., religion, race, ethnicity)?
In what ways have questions of race been sidelined by questions of ethnicity in Eastern European discourse?
What does it mean that certain European countries assert their 'whiteness' in order to appear more European?
Noa K. Ha
Chelsi West Ohueri
Catherine Baker (Virtual Presentation)
We invite submissions to the workshop by February 17, 2020.
The workshop will be a collaborative space for sharing and workshopping research projects. Papers should be works in progress, open to development in response to feedback. Participants will be asked to share their papers before we gather in Prishtina. This will ensure that each participant has had sufficient time to review the material. The workshop format will consist of a 20-25 minute presentation of the key points discussed in the paper, followed by a general discussion, questions, and feedback from the group. We will discuss two papers per day, reserving approximately 2 hours per paper.
Evening programs will include screenings of films and documentaries, as well as parties with local music/musicians;
Guest lectures and panels;
Lunch is provided each afternoon following the workshop. A portion of the program fee will go toward lunch expenses. Dietary restrictions will be accommodated to the best of our abilities. Please contact us for more information.
The first and last days of our program will include receptions following an afternoon of workshopping. Drinks and snacks will be provided for all the participants. A portion of the program fee will go toward reception catering services.
The workshop will take place in English.
Wifi and projectors will be available. Printing shops are available in the city, close to the workshop, for affordable printing.
How to Apply:
To apply, please submit your CV or portfolio and a 250-word abstract along with a 250-word personal statement indicating how your research relates to the workshop theme.Anyone working on race theory, decolonial and postcolonial theory, disability studies, queer theory, feminism, aesthetics, critical theory and political theory in general is encouraged to apply. We highly encourage activists, journalists, and artists whose work may not fit the form of a traditional paper to submit an application for the workshop.
Please do not submit published work. All papers/projects should be works in progress, open to development in response to feedback.
Eligibility: This workshop is open to anyone who is interested with the requisite background, including activists, artists, independent researchers, and academics (e.g., graduate students, post docs, junior faculty).
Email submissions to:
Workshop dates: July 1st-10th, 2020
- 325 euros for tenured or tenure-track faculty
- 250 euros for students and activists with organizational backing
- 150 euros for students, independent researchers, non-affiliated organizers/activists, and artists
- 50 euros for local residents.
*Fees include: lunch during each workshop session and an opening and closing receptions.
Image above: Pleurat Bytyqi @zyreinternational