Using the vampire as a metaphor to understand nationalism


The title of this book caught my eye, and although Karakasidou’s review didn’t really clarify for me what Longinovic is arguing in Vampire Nation, Karakasidou does assert that:

Vampire Nation [is] a thoughtful and distinctive study of Serbian identity and the cultural “vampire.” The book can be described as a different and unique ethnographic study of violence in the former Yugoslavia. The author’s ideas of cultural imaginary and the ways that people adopt counterintuitive traits such as violence, are of interest to anthropologists. We know that the history of the Balkans is not truly a history of nations: it is a history of a variety of peoples living global lives and global politics. One can question whether we should give primacy to Freudian impulses or Marxist necessities as the origins of violent confrontations; however, Vampire Nation gives us fuel to engage with all of these theoretical and historical themes.” (p.1302)

“The recent violence in the Balkans has perplexed foreign analysts. The mainstream interpretation conjured images of the violent Balkan man and blamed atrocities on inherent national maladies. A few historical constructivist voices contextualized the violent events in world politics and emphasized how the peoples of the Balkans lived within or on the margins of empires. They consumed the images of aggression and brutality assigned to them by the West. Struggles to create a sense of collective identity outside of that domineering framework have been futile. Vampire Nation joins these constructivist voices, but offers a unique deconstruction of Serbian nationalism through a detailed textual analysis of the “vampire” metaphor.”” (p.1299)

“The author is well-known from his previous writings on the metaphorical image of the vampire, but Vampire Nation is the first of his works that takes the leap into nationalism and stands as a critique of Serbian violence.” (p.1299)

I did think it interesting that, in discussing the writing of Serbian history, Karakasidou declares: “Anthropologists fought battles in academic settings against nationalist interpretations of history, but the meta-histories and self-reflexive ethnographies of post-modernity have not been well equipped to effectively interpret such a violent reality.” (p.1301)

Ref Anastasia Karakasidou (2012) Book Review:  Tomislav Longinovic, Vampire Nation: Violence as Cultural Imaginary. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. 224 pp. Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 4, p. 1299–1302,


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