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The East-West Discourse

Symbolic Geography and its Consequences


Alexander Maxwell

Political actors from many different countries locate their home country as a unique transition point between «the East» and «the West». The terms «east» and «west» have become highly symbolic, yet also have a relative meaning, since every place is east of somewhere, and west of somewhere else. What gives this banal cliché such irresistible attraction? How does East-West symbolism interact with other symbolic geographies? This book examines East-West rhetoric in several different historical contexts, seeking to problematize its implicit assumptions and analyse its consequences, particularly in parts of Europe where political actors conflate local geography with symbolic «Easts» and «Wests».
The various contributions to the book provide an overview of East-West discourses in scholarly writing; trace the medieval origins of European East-West symbolism; and discuss East-West discourses in nineteenth-century Germany, interwar Poland, Yugoslavia and Transylvania, twentieth-century Finland, Turkey in the late Cold War and post-Communist Belarus.
Contents: Alexander Maxwell: Introduction. Bridges and Bulwarks: A Historiographic Overview of East-West Discourses – Glyn Parry: Conceptions of the East: Medieval and Early Modern Europe – Florian Gassner: Becoming a Western Nation: German National Identity and the Image of Russia – Andrew Kier Wise: Russia as Poland’s Civilizational «Other» – Vesna Drapac: Yugoslav Studies and the East-West Dichotomy – Sacha Davis: East-West Discourses in Transylvania: Transitional Erdély, German-Western Siebenbürgen or Latin-Western Ardeal? – Christopher Browning/Marko Lehti: Geographic Centrality and Marginality: East, West and North in Finnish Symbolic Geography – Mehmet Dosemeci: How Turkey Became a Bridge between «East» and «West»: The EEC and Turkey’s Great Westernization Debate, 1960-1980 – Nelly Bekus: East, West or «In Between»? Three Post-Communist Concepts of the Belarusian Nation.