Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

Posts Tagged ‘Croatia

Croatia’s accession to the EU – a gamble worth taking?

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On the eve of 30th June, a few hours before Croatia joined the EU, a massive and £800,000 worth celebration marked the beginning of what was described as the country’s new era. Writers Igor Stiks and Srecko Horvat write in their insightful piece for the Guardian that what Croatia has actually joined is the EU periphery.

On the Zagreb’s central square, Croatian and EU political dignitaries took the turn at the stage with performers of Croatia’s ethno culture – the expression actually being ‘the immaterial heritage’. What mostly grabbed my attention is the selection and representation of the ‘immaterial heritage’ and the political discourse of those who talked, as opposed to those who sang and danced.

As it usually is the case with representing ‘small cultures’ to a big happy democratic family of man, Croatia’s treasures were mostly packaged in a timeless and static manner – as something exotic, authentic, easily translatable, therefore simplified and made ready for consumption. Maybe the show hit a particularly neuralgic spot in my aesthetic worldview, but I have always been skeptical about representing ‘small cultures’ as a neat box of colourful traditional clothes and songs. If anything, the problem I see is that ‘culture’ evolves and those ‘traditional’ elements – which are easiest to savour by foreigners – are actually alive only when brought into communication (or tension) with contemporary expressions. Which is why I mostly missed what I consider Croatia’ best ethno-fusion band Kries (ex Legen) – guys who don’t shy away from either wearing traditional Lika shoes or setting the ‘traditional’ melody against the backdrop of a strong base guitar.

The political discourse abounded with references to Croatian people’s hard work and rationality: Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic thus emphasised several times that we are rational enough not to expect to immediately wake up in a brighter and easier future. We, of course, must work at it and earn it. But as my current ethnographic research deals with concepts of chance, gambling and luck, it was hard not to notice what for me was the greatest irony of the show. The performance ended with Blagoje Bersa’s 1919 symphonic piece called Suncana polja (Sunny Fields), which he composed to celebrate Croatia’s previous, and alas doomed, unification: the one with the former Yugoslav states. Was this unification also based on hard work and rationality or has its destiny been defined by some uncontrollable forces?

The question – one might interpret – could have been: is the new unification a gamble worth taking?


Written by Andrea Pisac

July 2, 2013 at 9:11 am

Posted in News

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