January 24, 2002 – Jitka Malecková: “Doubly Marginal: Margins of Europe”
Thursday, January 24 | Oakes Mural Room | 4:00 PM
Jitka Malecková is Associate Professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern and African Studies at the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. She has published articles in Czech, English, French and Turkish on nine-teenth-century cultural and intellectual history of the Ottoman Empire and on gender and nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe. She is co-author of The Struggle for a Modern State in the Muslim World (1989) and Fertile Soil: Women Save the Nation(forthcoming), both in Czech. Her presentation, part of the Center’s ongoing project on “Civilizational Thinking,” will address the relationship between gender and nation at the margins of Europe in the 19th century.
People like to think in binary oppositions. Despite some politicians’ efforts, the current fight against terrorism, to mention just one example, is often presented as a fight between two civilizations — the Western, rational civilization versus the Eastern (Islamic), irrational civilization, “the realm of good” against “the realm of evil”, as the Czech president Havel put it. From a different standpoint, postcolonial studies focuses on two situations/models, leaving some parts of the world out from the current interest of academia. The presentation will concentrate on 19th-century societies which defined themselves in relationship to Western civilization, but were not considered a part of it. These “margins of Europe” present neither a geographical category nor a permanent one. They were rather constructed as a result of the exclusion from the post-Enlightenment (Western) Europe (which defined itself as the center and peak of civilization) and of the reaction to this perceived exclusion and lagging development. The idea of European/Western civilization played an important role in their self-perceptions, self-definitions, and concepts of modernity. The margins of Europe comprised various degrees of marginalization, as represented by: Italy and Greece, the old, displaced Southern centers of civilization; Eastern Europe, seen as both Europe and not-Europe, as the Orient of Europe and Oriental Europe (L.Wolff); and the Ottoman Empire, considered to be a barbaric opposite and the Other of Europe. Even today, this marginalization continues to have an impact on current historical writings and has political implications. The “margins of Europe” can be also used to reconsider binary approaches to history.