Twilight of the Proletariat: Reading Critical Balkanology as Liberal Ideology


Rade Zinaić

Critical Balkanology is a sub-discipline of Central and East European Studies that deconstructs and renders arbitrary the claims of ethnic nationalisms and Western “colonial” representations of the Balkans. Yet, this critical and nominally anti-racist project is parasitic on a hegemonic Euro-Atlantic liberal ideology in that it cannot see beyond the singular individual as victim and vanguard, thereby obscuring and/or effacing an awareness of class in- equality. Tomislav Longinović’s Vampire Nation: Violence as Cultural Imaginary (2011) is emblematic of this project. I place this text under an immanent critique and a contrapuntal reading as an example of how one can rescue class consciousness from this literature and push the limits of its politics while, in Longinović’s case, reading it against the socio-economic contradictions of post-Milošević Serbia. Longinović’s tracing of the vampire metaphor as a way of understanding the consumptive nature of both ethnic nationalism and Western imperialism reveals a politics that stigmatizes Serbia’s plebeian history in favour of a Westernized and urban middle class youth cult of techno-culture, rock music, and the disembodied voices of (male) intellectuals – a form of epistemic violence that parallels processes of privatization, social cleansing, and class oppression consuming the bodies of (sub)proletarians.