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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 64 | volume XII | January-February, 2009



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 64January-February, 2009

Stories about the Otherness, Identity and Housing

(post-colonial reading of the novel The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugrešić)

p. 1
Aco Gogov

At that moment, all stories were mine.
    Dubravka Ugrešić: The Ministry of Pain

Constituting itself first as a re-examining and critical reviewing of the academic discourse, that is, those methodological streams that strive towards completion, finalization and system, the post-colonial approach in literature in time started dealing with a whole scope of categories such as: the otherness, identity, home and housing, textualization of the knowledge, inter-cultural ties, etc. The category of Otherness is one of the key categories that the post-colonial criticism operates with.
    In her study Imagining the Balkans, the Bulgarian historian Maria Todorova indicates that the establishment of this category is related to the typification process; a process that has existed as early as ancient Greece – those who speak in an illegible language were considered Barbarians by the old Greeks, the “others”. The typification is based on purely practical reasons – it is conditioned by our deep inner need to establish meaning and order in the world. The events and phenomena in the world are marked with categories that group these very same events and phenomena. As Maria Todorova says, this is a “naming activity”, which in itself contains the knowledge and predictability, but reductionism as well.
    Therefore, the categories I-The Other are a result of this typification process. Then, the market Other, depending on the context in which it is used, can have different signified. This Other can be the Balkans, but it can be the Orient as well. That this is more a process of reduction and simplification is indicated by Edward Said in his cult work Orientalism: “Can anybody separate human reality, as it actually seems to be divided indeed, to clearly determined different cultures, histories, traditions, societies, even races, and humanly survive the consequences of this?”[1]
    In a somehow different context, writing about the ideas of the province to the so called organic culture, Radomir Konstantinović, in his study The Philosophy of the Province notes: “So, the foreign is evil: 1) by the very fact that it is foreign (inorganic), and 2) it is evil because evil is always foreign…”[2]
    The current neo-colonial division of Europe and the Western Balkans, to Us and Them, to civilized and barbaric is thematised to the maximum in the novel The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugrešić. The narrator (Tanja Lucić) in the novel, via her friend Ines, manages to find a job as a professor in Yugoslavistics in Amsterdam; her students


1. Edward W. Said, “Orientalism”, New York, Pantheon, 1978, p.45
2. Радомир Константиновиќ, „Филозофија на паланката“, Лист, Скопје, 2000, стр. 175

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