East and West Kiss: Gender, Orientalism, and Balkanism in Muslim-Majority Bosnia-Herzegovina


Helms, Elissa. 2008. “East and West Kiss: Gender, Orientalism, and Balkanism in Muslim-Majority Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Slavic Review 67 (1): 88–119.

Author: Elissa Helms


Through an ethnographic analysis of public and "everyday" discourses in the Muslim-majority area of Bosnia-Herzegovina, this article shows how gender is frequently constitutive of orientalist and balkanist representations. Both orientalism and balkanism have recently undergone a shift, precisely in the ways in which they are gendered. Women have become more visible symbols of Balkan backwardness while orientalist depictions have moved from emphasizing erotic sexuality to a focus on heavily veiled and controlled women, symbolizing the political threat of the east/Islam. In examining the everyday workings of such discourses in a community straddling the imagined boundaries of east and west, Elissa Helms shows a range of competing (re)configurations of east/west and related dichotomies, which are reconfigured precisely through notions of gender. While some of these (re)articulations seem to challenge dominant orientalist and balkanist frameworks, Helms argues that they ultimately reproduce (gendered) notions of opposing east and west civilizations.

Topics: Ethnicity, Gender, Femininity/ies, Religion Regions: Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year: 2008

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