Self–Othering: Stories about Serbia from externalized Belgrade insiders

by Robert Hayden

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By Robert HaydenFull

If ethnography is a literary form, can fiction also serve its purposes equally well? Comparison of the analyses of Serbian culture in the 1990s in the two scholarly studies and the novel reviewed here brings this question to the fore. The authors are Belgrade natives who left for North America in the 1980s and write in English for an American audience. They are, thus, externalized insiders. All exoticize their native land, reproducing Orientalist images of Serbia common in writings about the Balkans. Despite the literary turn in anthropology, the novelist still conveys the complexities of life in 1990s Serbia better than the more theoretically oriented and self-reflexive scholarly authors. To this reviewer, an American who joined a Belgrade family in the 1980s and is thus an internalized outsider, there is at least as much verisimilitude in the novel’s magical realism as there is in the scholarly analyses of imaginaries.