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The Sacrificed Body

Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom

by Tatjana Aleksic

Publication Year: 2013

Examines the themes of sacrifice and violence for the sake of community, nation, and ideology by taking up the Balkan legend of the immurement of a live female body into an architectural edifice that cannot stand without a human sacrifice. The sacrificed body becomes a metaphor for acts of violence in the course of the region’s many ethno-religious conflicts in the 20th century, as Aleksic demonstrates how this sacrificial economy functions in a range of cultural and literary texts. The theoretical framework encompasses sociological analyses, feminist theory, human rights reports, and other sources documenting the destruction of individual subjectivities by the purported necessity of nationalist projects.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: The Legendary Roots of Community Construction

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pp. 1-20

The immurement of a female body into the foundations of an edifice, usually a bridge, city walls, or a monastery, is a common trope known to exist in numerous variations in all literary traditions of the Balkan region. The Serbian epic poem The Building of Skadar and the Greek ballad The Bridge...

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Chapter 1. Community, Power, and the Body

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pp. 21-45

Anthropological, feminist, and even psychoanalytical studies frequently posit the motif of human sacrifice as a culturally nonspecific event, as a “civilizational” act par excellence. Many of their propositions are in tune with the imagery found in the Balkan legend of immurement. The well-known Freudian establishing of parricide as the founding social...

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Chapter 2. A Failed Dream of a Balkan Community

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pp. 46-78

The fact that the legend of immurement survives in many different forms and continues to be recognized as a cultural topos in the Balkans perhaps points to a conflicting dynamic of the region as a historically traumatized space and of its populations as a colorful, if occasionally explosive mix. The sacrificial myth itself, however, is frequently employed as a figure of speech...

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Chapter 3. The Greek National Identity as the Father’s Testament

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pp. 79-109

Even the most exclusive ethnoreligious, gender, or racial policies tend to demonstrate relative tolerance of inassimilable bodies at a time when the community experiences a period of peace or prosperity. However, the process of the establishment of authority in a community in crisis, or the (re)definition of the very concept of community, is the pivotal point that...

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Chapter 4. The Yugoslav Cadavre Exquis: The Return of the Repressive

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pp. 110-150

In the closing scenes of Želimir Žilnik’s Rani radovi (Early works) (1969), three angry men in factory overalls march through a proletarian neighborhood, grab a young woman by the arm, lead her out into the open field, and threaten to rape her. She defiantly confronts them and challenges their manliness. They are old friends, and she accuses them of cowardice and the...

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Chapter 5. Demystifying the Sacrificial Imperative of History

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pp. 151-184

Literature’s fascination with History (capital letter intended), the relationship that treats history as a metacognitive force existing outside of human influence and imparting its deadly blows upon us with divine disinterestedness, is a common trope. Much has been written about the awe with which humans, individuals and collectives alike, await these devastating blows and...

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Conclusion: Community, Communalism, Communism

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pp. 185-198

A TV sketch by the Sarajevan New Primitives collective, which aired some time in the late 1980s, illustrates the absence of political ambition and ideals among contemporary youth when juxtaposed with the generation of their parents, the protesters of 1968: joining student protests after decades of hiding in the forest, unaware that Tito’s repercussions for 1968 had long ceased, ...


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pp. 199-246

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 247-262


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pp. 263-266

Back Cover

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p. 282-282

E-ISBN-13: 9780822979135
E-ISBN-10: 0822979136
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962618
Print-ISBN-10: 0822962616

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 17 b& w Illustrations
Publication Year: 2013