Bulwarks, Bridges and Crossroads:
Imagining the Transition between“East” and “West”
This article examines comparatively how various authors imagine
their affinitive homeland as the center between “East” and “West.”
Authors from many countries produce recognizably similar thought patterns.
A sample of books containing the phrase “between East and West” in the title
suggests that this discourse, while popular in many parts of the world, has
a special character in Central European and Balkan countries. Those
who produce such discourses in English-language books are typically expatriate
or heritage scholars with an emotional tie to their object of study.
Such discourses contain a moral dimension, and are designed to lend geopolitical
and moral significance to marginal, subordinate countries and their political
claims. The metaphor of a “bulwark” implies that the country has earned
moral capital by shedding its blood in defence of “the West,” but the “battlefield”
invokes pity for the country’s sufferings. The “bridge” suggests peaceful
trade and moral utility. Interestingly, the metaphor of a “crossroads,”
while ambiguous, still has a moral coloring. The instrumental value
of such claims in political rhetoric explains why they became so popular
during the cold war, and why they have become even more popular since then.
Scholars should avoid such metaphors.