<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>THE GREAT VAMPIRE SWINDLE</b> Global Cultural Imaginary and the Violence of 'the serbs' <p> <p> SERBIA. The cradle of vampirism in Europe. —Matthew Bunson, ed., <i>The Vampire Encyclopedia</i> <p> And yet, unless my senses deceive me, the old centuries had, and have powers of their own which mere "modernity" cannot kill. —Bram Stoker, <i>Dracula</i> <p> <p> The perception of pathological fixation of Eastern Europe in general, and of the Balkans in particular, on the "old centuries" voiced by Stoker at the end of the nineteenth century through the persona of Dracula is symptomatic of a cultural vision based on an interesting intersection of local and global discourses of violence. The past and its bloody memories define a refusal to yield to modernity imputed to the countries of the Balkan region, whose resistance to civilization and its laws are naturalized as inherently evil to oppose the advances of the Enlightenment and its technologies of mediation. The narrative projected onto the vampire as a beast within, enslaved to the undying, bloody past, serves as a national fetish underlying the repressed origins of Europe proper. <p> A small nation such as 'the serbs' is by definition led by a mysterious, degenerate leader who is ready to sacrifice others and commit bloodshed only to prolong his political power. During the 1990s, this vision of the other Europe reinforced an imaginary relationship that extended the vampire metaphor from the realm of the Gothic period's horror genre to the mundane practice of global politics, strategically deploying violence to advance civilization and the rule of law in the Wild East of Europe. The signifier that will forever sink into historical oblivion—Yugoslavia, the proper name of the country that was erased to deny the striving of culturally heterogeneous populations to live in a common state—has been assaulted by the differentialist logic of the "clash of civilizations" to enforce local insecurity by bringing about a collective return to the ideology of the vampire nation. <p> Stoker's <i>Dracula</i>, which founded the literary discourse of the Gothic imaginary, appears as the incarnation of those old centuries that refuse to fade away in the face of modernizing Europe. This imaginary, sparked by a belated Romantic mourning for the glory of the past that permeated most of the notions of the nation across the symbolic boundaries of Europe, uses violence with the automatism of the beast who has no other choice but to feed itself on the blood of others. This hungry being is always engendered in zones of intense cultural and linguistic hybridization and simultaneously is imbued with the pathos of a race submerged in the narratives of its own past and viewed as a herald of a cruel modernity at hand. <p> Many "national" histories written and taught in the Balkans and in the rest of "Oriental" Europe are saturated with a celebration of violence that is monumentalized as just revenge and sacrifice offered to the glory of cultural life and survival. Small nationalisms contain this imaginary economy; they appear colorful but ostensibly irrational, steeped in gore despite enlightened intentions and dominated by discourses of masculine injury that claim the victim's right to feed on the blood of others as the only way to sustain survival. <p> This being is symptomatic of a phantasm that has haunted the imagination and reality of both sides of Europe ever since 1897, when it emerged as cultural documentation of the demonic rebirth of the timeless and unreflecting void of violence. This was the age when England saw the replacement of traditional gaslight with new and improved electric lights; simultaneously, the Gothic vampire was exiled to the urban shadows through Stoker's narrative evocation of the "Oriental" location of past European traumas. Lurking in the shadows, the vampire appeared as a specter of an ancient and forgotten power juxtaposed with imperial Victorian rationality and acting as its repressed underside. The creature was willing to quench its thirst for ever more blood by consuming the life essence of close and distant others, revealing a particular form of literary interpellation of the imperial past reaching into the present by covert and devious means. <p> The sadistic propensities of Vlad Dracul Tsepesh, which the Saxon chroniclers recorded as gargantuan feasts accompanied by torture and suffering and which served as Stoker's "historical" model, gradually transformed into blood drinking by the decadent aristocrat, a figure Europe had been trying to erase from its enlightened history. The figure haunted Europe by conjuring up its own criminal past that, ostensibly, had been conquered by modern civilization and the light of reason. The fear of light is symptomatic of vampires as creatures who hide in the shadow of the law that is responsible for establishing the enlightened rationality of the modern state. The vampire unambiguously embodies ambiguities of the empire as the obverse of being that was imagined by philosophers at the inception of the Age of Reason in the eighteenth century. This was also the period in which the state representatives of the Habsburg administration filed their first official reports about vampire plagues ravaging the Balkan regions of the Holy Roman Empire. The vampire is the true being of Western metaphysics as it grew into modernity by getting to know its borders. <p> The famous case of Petar Plugojevi?, reported in the <i>Wiener Diarium</i> in 1725 as the first scientific investigation of vampirism among 'the serbs' who had been exiled from Kosovo in the wake of Austro–Turkish wars, so stirred the European popular imagination that in 1763 a newspaper columnist in London used it as an allegory for the bloodthirsty nature of the tax law in an article titled "Political Vampirism." The emergent administrative structures of the modern state were imbued with metaphoric signification that transformed the ancient creature into a flexible construct that was available for a variety of discursive uses across cultures. Although the legacy of the vampire nowadays is claimed almost exclusively by Romania as a marketing tool (embodied in failed plans to build the Draculaland theme park near the Bucharest airport), 'the serbs' have been affected by this type of cultural profiling most recently, both as the dominant perpetrators of Balkan violence during the 1990s and as the military target of nato in its desperate search for raison d'être since the end of the Cold War. <p> The historical Vlad Dracul Tsepesh allegedly had learned the art of torture from the Ottomans after spending his youth as a hostage to the Turks. Stoker's imaginary Transylvania was the borderland between Europe proper and the Ottoman Orient, memorialized in literature as a space of the imperial arbitrariness of violence tied to alien power. This vision of violence was assimilated into the narratives of most Balkan nations after the process of "liberation" was initiated during uprisings against their imperial masters in the nineteenth century. The gradual impalement of Vlad Dracul's victims is represented as a practice rooted in an unenlightened, Oriental Europe imagined as a periphery immersed in a perverse enjoyment caused by the perpetual replaying of past tortures and massacres. The phallic character of the stake as a torture weapon, and as the ultimate palliative for the vampire's unholy existence, points to violence as an omnipresent and productive force of European identity. Europe's cultural imaginary is constituted as an ongoing performance that invokes a monumental memory invested with forms of identity born through this violent becoming. The border position of Transylvania as a site of conflict between Christianity and Islam is emblematic of the impossible locality the Balkans have represented for the Western imagination ever since the vampire plagues of the eighteenth century. <p> <p> <b>Translating Balkan Violence</b> <p> The current division of previously monolithic, communist Eastern Europe into the "angelic" nations of the new-member European states (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, etc.) and the "demonic" nationalisms of 'the serbs' and most of their Balkan enemies betrays the inconstancy inherent in the "innocent" gaze of the Western media consumer. Those who do not reside "there" (in the blood-soaked territories) are allowed to indulge in a media vision born of this intentional moralistic myopia, a discourse that features violent excesses and the incommensurable alterity of those small and bloodthirsty nations that exist in a realm far away from "here." Despite the addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union and nato, the global media would have us believe that the Balkans are inhabited by 'the serbs,' who personify the criminal remnants of Dracula's blood clan, while the inheritors of <i>Mitteleuropa</i> are cast as diligent descendents of Roman Catholic civilization and therefore more than willing to service the strategic and military needs of the U.S.-led West. It is symptomatic that the <i>Mittel Land</i> Stoker invoked in <i>Dracula</i> clearly belongs both to the worlds of the Balkans and to the world of Central Europe. What all these small nations share is their relationship to discourses of history, which are constructed as a narrative dominated by the burdensome memories of ancient but alive repression and spiced by stories of blood and sacrifice to sustain the spectral existence of the vampire as a shared narrative of national unconscious. <p> The Polish-born Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz imagined Central Europe as a margin of Europe proper, an ethnoscape stretching from the Baltic to the Adriatic, a transitional zone between proper Western civilization and the unfathomable identity of imperial Russia. Writing before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Milosz, unlike Milan Kundera and many other dissident writers and intellectuals, included the Balkans in his vision of Central Europe. Although Milosz himself identified with Polish Lithuania, he imagined that homeland as extending into the entire border zone that he saw as sharing a common destiny of victimization by its imperial neighbors. The main trauma of Central Europe, he wrote, was that "the division of Europe has been a palpable reality," not a historical fact confined to archives and textbooks. <p> The division Milosz invokes was implemented by the drawing of Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain and the struggle that broke out between the "barbarian purity" of the Soviet communist project and the technologically superior lifestyles of the U.S.-led West, rooted in forms of structural hunger inherent in the ideology of free consumerism. This hunger, shared with the vampire, features the actions of the sole global superpower after 1989 in its almost automated search for strategic dominance of the planet's remaining resources. The absence of the capitalist–communist binary has taken "Eastern Europe" from its previous "Oriental" status into a zone closer to the economic North–South division, instituted by the binary between the noble Central Europe and the bloodthirsty Balkans, which, in turn, are emblematic of the vampire nation of 'the serbs.' <p> With the notable exception of the former Yugoslavia, most of the Central Europe nations in Milosz's conception were subjected to the patronage of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, suffering the consequences of their geopolitical smallness when confronted with the embrace of "Mother Russia." This sense of palpable subjection of weak and small peoples to powerful nations engendered a cultural phenomenon that Milosz calls the historical imagination. The collective awareness of the people who used to live behind the Iron Curtain has been shaped by their political destiny, which often has been determined by forces that opposed their own striving for sovereignty and is based in remembering past injustices. Milosz speculates that "the historical imagination is probably trained by a memory of collective suffering," thus forming the context for great works of culture to emerge from these small nations. <p> Apart from the submissive "Christ of Nations" complex nurtured by the Polish national imaginary, Milosz projects a unique vision of a subaltern cultural production rooted in the suffering of the weak who were forced to endure the infectious bite of larger historical predators personified for Poland by the Russians and the Germans. The destiny of small peoples is a symptom of the masochistic imaginary, and it is no accident that Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was the product of life in Habsburg Bukowina. The hypertrophy of collective memory leads to guilt in periodic repetition of punishment, since only pain can be experienced as the real foundation of identity. In accordance with this cultural mechanism, Sacher-Masoch, who was also known as the "Ukrainian Turgenev," proposed a pan-Slavic state ruled by the cold and cruel beauty of an empress similar to Catherine the Great, who would play the role of national dominatrix for the united Slav(e)dom. <p> Inferiority and passivity were also qualities dear to another Polish maverick, Witold Gombrowicz, who glorified the undersized status of literature that would run away from projects based on memory of historical victimization. This entrenched kernel of the unhealed injury disturbs the victim in search of domination, who is eager to revisit the pain and free the subject from his or her own unfulfilled strivings. Violence repositions stories of one's greatness through the work of love as pain and initiates the perpetual circulation of the cultural imaginary to normalize aggression and laugh at violence. The literary and cinematic incarnations of the vampire situate their narratives amid small and oppressed peoples who are ruled by the revenant powers of ancient times that originated in the mist-enveloped sources of its bloody being. <p> National leaders often take up this narrative to defend against the violence of others and deploy it wisely, as they must calculate blood loss and gain for their own vampire nations. The genesis of ethnic others, subjects who do not fit the dominant vision of the national time-space continuum, is bound to territorial traumas of submission and domination. The symbolic value of "national territory" is always calculated against the threat of erasure by both large and small others, just as the collective identity of a small nation seems dependent on the will of those larger and more powerful imperial others. The less-than-civilized behavior of warriors in end-of-the-millennium Yugoslavia stemmed from the same feelings of dispossession, past and present, almost always rooted in images of stolen blood and hunger for lost territory. For 'the serbs,' a combined influence of local post-communist violence (Slobodan Milo?sevi? as a national messiah) and a global hunger for domination (the U.S. led-West) formed a contested media vision of postmodern vampire identity. <p> In the Balkans, the small nation is often armed and supported by a powerful ally, who, as Maria Todorova has suggested, often nurtures its "pet nation" to fulfill its geopolitical aims. Exploiting the sense of weakness felt by a well-trained ally, the great power uses its pet's smallness and suffering for strategic gains in its relations to rival great powers competing for influence over a region. The pain and suffering of the pet nation, both real and imaginary, are transformed into a cultural imaginary that is always on the edge of the rational, anticipating the explosion of genocidal rage to free the guilt and perform its justified punishment operation. The fact that responsibility for the ethnic other is nonexistent turns the perpetrator, who usually was a victim in a previous historical cycle, into a creature reduced to basic instincts, less and more human at the same time. <p> The temptation to yield to old centuries of suffering for one's puniness and enact pre-emptive violence to avenge age-old injustices often turns memory into a source for the cultural imaginary of nations caught in a sadomasochistic economy of submission and domination. For Milosz, the imaginary of his nation had been haunted by the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, which once again partitioned Poland. Torn between Russia and Germany, Poland was again dismembered, providing an example of how the nationalist narrative of the small nation develops to compensate for historical losses. Those nations that find themselves being used as bargaining chips in the strategic gambling of their predatory neighbors develop this type of imaginary as cultural compensation for their weakness. Milosz claims that the basic difference between the East and the West in Europe has been that between "memory and a lack of memory," since those who have the power do not need to remember past injuries. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Vampire Nation</b> by <b>Tomislav Z. Longinovic</b> Copyright © 2011 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.