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1. “Forms without Substance”: Debates on the Transfer of Western Models to the Balkans

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Chapter Summary

Modern European civilization exerted an influence upon the Balkan peoples under Ottoman rule during the Enlightenment, especially during the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the ensuing attempts at reform. The early reactions against Western influences and imports in the Balkans often took the form of a critique of foreign "fashions", as contemporaries called them. "Fashion" is generalized, and was so at the time, to include, besides fashion in the narrow sense of dress and other material items, the use of foreign languages, new manners and attitudes, new conventions and lifestyle. The critique addressed alien, adopted cultural imports and influences, and let alone critical theory, towards Western innovations. The political and cultural leaders of the Balkan societies found themselves engaged in debates concerning the applicability of foreign institutional models, which may be summarized under the label "forms without substance", after the evocative formula of the Junimists in Romania.

Keywords: Balkan peoples; critical theory; cultural imports; fashions; foreign institutional models; Junimists; modern European civilization; Ottoman rule; Romania



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