Friday, February 29, 2008

La Maladie de la mort

Eight hours of work in the same black IKEA swivel chair. Yet, the referee comments from Political Studies remain as elusive as ever. I take a moment to read through my favourite weblogs; Katrine Kielos has written a succinct preface to Marguerite Duras’ The Malady of Death. I cannot but order the book.

I know, I should start packing, tomorrow morning it is time to leave New Brunswick for two weeks on the road. Those weeks will bring days of hotel room writing but also a hike down to Caye Caulker Marine Reserve in Belize. If possible I will try to update Rawls & Me as I go along. And further down the road I will indeed find Gia-Dinh.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Morning thoughts

Despite the winter storm, our McDonnell Douglas seems to be ready to leave Denmark on time and begin its climb through the reddish morning light. The last days have been eventful, both personally and professionally. One of my manuscripts is now on track (although admittedly not a short one) towards publication in Political Studies, another paper has been accepted for the ECPR Graduate Conference in Barcelona and, following their declaration of independence last Sunday, I again find myself thinking back on the summer’s visit to Kosovo.

Though they were quick to take it back, the threat of military force given by Russia’s NATO ambassador Dmitrij Rogozin did not bode well. Yet, the frustration of the Serbs in Mitrovica is fully understandable. Often, conflicts of this kind come to feel intractable, especially when you hear the personal stories. Getting my morning coffee in Lund the other day, I came to talk with the café man who I know comes from Kosovo. Seemingly happy he told me that at last his people was free to rule themselves, to decide what to teach in the schools and to pray according to their own religion.

I did not feel like arguing by suggesting that those freedoms had been secured ever since the bombings of 1999 and the creation of UNMIK. Neither did I ask what he thought about the hundreds of minorities in the world who potentially would like to have a state of their own, especially the Serbs in northern Kosovo. But leaving with my coffee I could hear the chilling words of Todor Gligorov, the former president of Macedonia: “why should I be a minority in your country when you can be a minority in mine?”.

And now, sitting here at the gate in Copenhagen, writing on a paper on global federal governance, I finally know what I should have said there at the café. That the great idea of the European Union has been to not change borders but rather the meaning of borders.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Independence day

I do not like being ruminative in my thinking, but these days at the Baltic seashore have peeled back those protective layers of memory, giving me a sense of convergence, that from here on the roads lie open even as the past remains frustratingly unsettled:

"I count the years
Now to seconds
Like I wouldn't have known"

By the weekend I will return to the Americas and in early March I will head down to the Yucatán peninsula. For this purpose I thought I should revive Rawls & Me, if only for a few more posts. Since the last time around I have finished my work on the "Global Fordian Compromise" as it came to me during my journeys last summer. The paper is due to be presented in Nottingham in late March and then to be submitted for publication.

Yesterday, having a pint of Starobrno with my good friend, the sleepy square outside was suddenly flooded by honking cars, fireworks and cheering crowds waiving red flags. Though long expected and maybe ultimately inevitable, I do not take Kosovo’s declaration of independence to be a good sign. Instead of trying to heal what has been broken and quickly move forward towards European integration, this unilateral move on behalf of the Albanian majority is likely to leave a bitter aftertaste in the wider region.

The Balkans do not need more fragmentation. Neither does the world at large. As always, the problem is not so much the fundamentalists as it is our own failing idealism. Days like these should urge us to renew our commitment to cosmopolitanism and to forcefully rebut the group egoism endemic to all nationalistic thinking.