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What is in Balkan History? Spaces and Scales in the Tradition of Southeast-European Studies

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image of Southeastern Europe

This article takes a distance from the debate about 'symbolic geographies' and structural definitions of historical spaces as well as from surveying discrete disciplinary traditions or political agendas of regionalist scholarship in and on Southeastern Europe. Its purpose instead has been two-fold. On the one hand, to bring to light a preexistent but largely suppressed and un-reflected tradition of regionalist scholarship with the hope that this could help us fine tune the way we conceptualize, contemplate and evaluate regionalism as politics and transnationalism as a scholarly project. In epistemological terms, on the other hand, it proposes a theoretical perspective to regionalist scholarship involving rigorous engagement with the scales of observation, and scale shifts, in the interpretation of history. The hypothesis the article seeks to test maintains that the national and the (meso)regional perspectives to history chart differentiated 'spaces of experience' — i.e. the same occurrences are reported and judged in a different manner on the different scales — by way of displacing the valency of past processes, events, actors, and institutions and creating divergent temporalities — different national and regional historical times. Different objects (i.e. spaces) of enquiry are therefore coextensive with different temporal layers, each of which demands a different methodological approach. Drawing on texts of regional scholars, in which the historical reality of the Balkans/Southeastern Europe is articulated explicitly or implicitly, the article discusses also the relationship between different spaces and scales at the backdrop of the Braudelian and the microhistorical perspectives.


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