Waiting for Macedonia: Identity in a Changing World (Teaching Culture: UTP Ethnographies for the Classroom)

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9781551117195: Waiting for Macedonia: Identity in a Changing World (Teaching Culture: UTP Ethnographies for the Classroom)

Waiting for Macedonia gives insight into one of the most moving moments in post-war European history: the hope for a new Europe in the years following the collapse of communism. In this ethnography, Thiessen explores the different ways in which identity has been negotiated in Macedonia since the disintegration of Yugoslavia. In contrast to more familiar approaches to the Balkans—which emphasize tradition, rural life, and women in the contexts of kinship and marriage—Thiessen here investigates the everyday habits of a group of young professional women in Skopje. Using research data spanning eight years (1988-96), she traces key aspects of their life, including family relationships, television and shopping habits, cafe life, and attitudes to work. At the same time, she also raises larger questions about Macedonian, Balkan, and Eastern European notions of identity, suggesting that western discourses about former socialist countries may in turn be influencing the way young urban Macedonians see themselves.

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About the Author:

Ilka Thiessen is a Professor of Anthropology at Malaspina University-College (Nanaimo, BC). She has written extensively on Macedonian culture and identity.

Review:

In the new cultural landscape of Skopje—the capital of the Republic of Macedonia—Thiessen crafts a fine ethnography of a changing society after the fall of socialism and independent nationhood. Ethnic conflict and violence in Macedonia has preoccupied outside observers and politicians, but the author follows the 'ordinary' lives of a vulnerable group of young female engineers, who are seeking employment in a world of masculine science. From the management of their body, to their ideology about sexuality and national identity, these young women try to distance themselves from the patriarchal nationalist past, only to come face-to-face with the 'masculinity effect' of the liberal democracy that is transforming their society.... This ethnography is an excellent account of how locality responds to the stereotypes of backwardness in a period of liminality, while waiting for Macedonia to emerge worthy of its name.

(Anastasia Karakasidou, Wellesley College)

Thiessen is particularly good at bringing out the complexities and ambiguities that haunt the categories often used to make sense of contemporary Macedonian realities: 'Balkan' / 'European', rural / urban, backward / modern, Muslim / Orthodox, Macedonian / Yugoslav.... This book should be read as part of a wider history of post-Yugoslavism, as well as an ethnographic evocation of a particular time and place.

(Wendy Bracewell, School of Eastern and Slavonic Studies, University College London)

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