Jelena Batinic


From the Introduction:

This paper presents a study of feminist representations of the situation in the former Yugoslavia. I have decided to look at feminist textsvthat were generated in response to the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which appeared in both the feminist popular press and scholarly publications in English. By focusing on the ideological plane, seen in terms of narrative structures available for speaking and perceiving one’s experience, I seek to examine the feminist representation of the conflict of Yugoslav nationalisms and within Yugoslav feminism itself. Narratives are produced in the space where various discourses transpire, compete, and/or converge. I will here concentrate on the narratives through which the specific, intersectional experience of ethnic and gender identity of Yugoslav women was mediated in feminist texts available in English. I consider these narratives a product of the dynamics of three dominant discourses in feminist texts on Yugoslavia – nationalist, feminist, and Orientalist discourse. I will try to identify the present narratives that feminists used to speak about the experiences of local women and to speak about nationalism and war in the former Yugoslavia. I will examine the ways that nationalist discourse is implicated in these feminist narratives, pointing to critical ‘discursive traps’ in which feminist representation of the conflict was caught. I am particularly interested in discursive mechanisms or ‘traps’ whereby, paradoxically, nationalism gets reproduced and reinforced within nominally anti-nationalist feminism itself.

In my analysis, I rely on Dubravka Zarkov’s theoretical approach, which assumes that practices are both represented and constructed through the use of certain discourses. Since neither the authors nor the readers of texts are just passive recipients of discourses, I do not approach feminist texts “merely as reflections on and reports of events.” I define the feminist representation of war as a discursive practice through which both nationalist and feminist ‘realities’ of war are constructed. I assume that feminist texts do not only reflect a feminist view of reality but they also constitute a ‘reality’ themselves and offer politicized subject positions. Thus I do not read feminist texts on the former Yugoslavia as simply conveying information and messages but rather as defining the feminist self and other and as constitutive of a certain type of feminist subjectivity.