What Makes a Nation Visible

By Branka Kalogjera.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Although traditional distinctions between different cultures of the United States are becoming blurred and diminishing, people still prefer to identify themselves according to their ethnic or religious belonging. Following the 'melting pot' phenomenon there emerged a pride in one's specific cultural background, but throughout it all the Slavs remained unrecognisable.Within the literary corpus of the US ethnic experience, Slavic writers seem to be occupied with ideas of the homeland – Eastern or South-Eastern Europe – as it was before their friends, families and ultimately characters moved to the States, or as it develops in the time of their absence. Ethnic literature of the United States developed as a "complex project of negotiation between past and present, between physical and psychic relocation" (de Manuel, 2004), which is particularly true of the Slavs and visible in recurring motifs in both their poetry and prose, but while this creates a common ground to many shared experiences regardless of whether the immigrants are for example Polish or Croatian, their histories do differ.What should be done to challenge the stereotyped and often misled "tied image" that the average American reader has in mind when presented with the idea of a person of Slavic descent? Has anything changed since the 1920s, when Croats were called Polacks (Ifkovic, "Anna Marinkovich", 1980) and Slavs were a generic category for "various stock" (Horace M. Kallen in "The Nation", 1915)? As my research focuses on Croatian literature in the United States, I will use samples from that particular segment of US ethnic writing to demonstrate its specific, unique character distinguishable from those of other Slavic groups not only through subtle differences in history, culture, and their resulting mores, but also through a more direct motif - politics. As writers whose origins lie in Eastern Europe (particulary the South East, also known as the Balkans) observed the trials and tribulations of their homelands, struggles rampant in those foreign lands passed through their writings into Slavic communities of the United States. The ultimate aim of this paper is to see which is the effective path in making one small nation recognisable through its literary production - the strategy of "us (the Croats) versus them (other Slavic groups, charged with different meanings and backgrounds)", which exists both in this reality and that of the written word, or the emphasis on, and celebration of one's culture's uniqueness unburdened by comparison or rivalry.

Keywords: Literature, Ethnicity, Ethnic Writing, Eastern Europe, Stereotypes

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.115-120. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 508.166KB).

Dr. Branka Kalogjera

Associate Professor, Department of English Language & Literature, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, PG, Croatia

Branka Kalogjera, PhD, former Head of the English Department at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Rijeka (Croatia) where she currently holds the courses "American Culture and Civilization", "Introduction to English Literature" and "Old English Literature". Her field of research is focused on ethnic literature in the United States, resulting so far in three books and numerous articles, mostly devoted to writers of Croatian origin or double nationality.

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