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Po-co-co Balkans: Dancing Bears and Lovesick Donkeys, Bouncing Mines and Ethnic Conflict in Two Films from the Region

Taylor and Francis
Publication Date
  • Pn Literature (General)
  • Pn0080 Criticism
  • Pn1993 Motion Pictures
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science


The article will explore how two filmic artefacts from the Balkans, Emir Kusturica’s Life Is a Miracle (2004) and Danis Tanovič’s No Man’s Land (2001), respond to the identity politics underlying traditional Balkanist discourse and its latest version reinvigorated by the 1990s conflicts in the region. It argues that the two films analyse the destructive impact of ethnocentric macropolitics on local forms of community affiliation and offer instead examples of micropolitical agency that are absurd and embodied, dangerously anti‐identitarian and non‐partisan. Condemning the universalism and essentialism of Balkanist othering, frequently employed by the culture industries (and mass media in particular), No Man’s Land and Life Is a Miracle recognise the power of identitarianism and the inevitable complicity of artistic representations in such discursive practices. Nonetheless, each of them attempts to forge its own sympathetic way of conveying that which others have decided to demonise or sentimentalise.

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