What does civilization mean to the inhabitants of a Serbian town after yet another bloody war on the Balkan Peninsula? How was it possible that people who had been friends and neighbors for so long ended up killing each other? And how do they deal with this barbarity in the post-war period?
The figure of the gypsy, who often appears in Serbian popular culture, has always been invested with the mysterious power to unveil the mendacious undertones in the program of civilization. Wherever he appears – in jokes, songs, tales, literature, or movies – the civilized order is unmasked. This motif can be seen most dramatically in bars and taverns, where gypsy musicians lead their Serbian customers in veritable celebrations of unreason. “”This is real,”” Serbs say about these gatherings where the canons of propriety and civilized behavior are overthrown with obvious relish. “”This is life.””
The author, who spent several months in Serbia investigating these wild meetings, relates the unreason of the behaviour in these bars to the atrocities committed during the war which broke out during his stay. Highlighting how the program of civilization brings with it the need to construct an image of humankind more compatible with the lessons of history, Gypsies, Wars and Other Instances of the Wild may be read as a case-study of how war-infested societies cope with wartime traumas.
About The Author:
Mattijs van de Port is a cultural anthropologist. He lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Mattijs Van De Port
Amsterdam University Press