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   suche   steirischer herbst, 24. Oktober - 24. November 2002

steirischer herbst 2002
visual arts

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Svetlana Slapsak - abstract
Expecting the Barbarians

"And a few men who've returned from the frontiers tell us that there are no barbarians any more. And now, what's to become of us without barbarians? These people were some sort of a solution." (Constantine Cavafy, "Waiting for the barbarians") Constantine Cavafy laughs at the ambiguous relation between a tired culture and a possible fresh barbaric input. At the beginning of the line of Greek and European intellectuals who laughed at their own culture's invention of barbarians are the Ancient Greek authors, like Herodotus and Aristophanes. This laughter dismantles the techniques of constructing the enemy. While barbarians are represented as objects of violence, often sexual violence and political domination in the Ancient Greek imagery (paintings on vases, for instance), Aristophanes makes his point in attributing barbarians the sexual power. But in turning upside-down the popular imagery, V th and IV th ct. B.C. Greek intellectuals question the very functioning of the Athenian democracy – which was, as most of the handbooks and schoolbooks never underline, a democracy without women, slaves, and foreigners. The Athenian male citizen needed each of these others/enemies to construct his own and collective identity. Is then a barbarian more tolerable in less democratic societies? For which new identities was a »noble savage« necessary? How were the Balkan barbarians constructed after the European invention of the »classical past«, located in Greece? In which field of culture the barbarians made up by intellectuals, and those invented in the popular culture meet? Which social and cultural needs are satisfied by the invention of barbaric women? These will be the main questions raised in my paper.