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Kitchen Stories from the Balkans

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Photographs and text by

Eugenia Maximova
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The people of the Balkans live in the shadow of a long history of wars, conflicts and unresolved ethnic tensions. Much of the energy that could have gone into building a future has been squandered on maintaining those tensions and the result is an impoverished present.

Young families must either pay exorbitant rents or live packed like sardines in their parents apartments. And most of those apartments are in the hopelessly ugly, crumbling concrete blocks which are the legacy of the communist era.

The term Balkan whether it is describing a culture or a geographic area, usually has a strong suggestion of the rural with a heavy overlay of the Orient. In whatever context it is used, the word reverberates with cultural and sociological connotations, with a sense of division and disagreement.

When I set out to tell a story about the Balkans, it was food that sprang to mind as being the only thing people in the whole region agree that they have in common. After five centuries of Ottoman occupation we have all continued to eat the dishes they brought.

Thinking about this shared culinary heritage, I began to wonder what was happening in Balkan kitchens these days. The kitchen is a multipurpose room, a space which reflects identity and self-perception. It embodies the spirit of the Balkan home and mirrors society as a whole.

People in the Balkans would rather spend what little money they have in a cafe than on interior decoration. The functional, unadorned style which results from this conveys a tangible sense of the region’s lost identity, the inevitable legacy of half a millennium under the Ottoman yoke and half a century behind the Iron Curtain.

— Eugenia Maximova


New library collections for American history

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

American West
Original manuscripts, maps, ephemera, and printed sources from the Newberry Library, Chicago detailing frontier life, Native Americans, the growth of urban centres, the environmental impact of westward expansion, and life in the borderlands.

Everyday Life and Women in America, 1800-1920
An archival research collection documenting the social and cultural forces that shaped the lives of Americans from 1800 to 1920 including the study of families and home life in the South and in the North, religion, race, education, employment, politics, marriage, sexuality, health, childhood, fashion, travel, and entertainment.

Lily: A Temperance and Abolitionist Newspaper
The first newspaper for women, The Lily was published in Seneca Falls, New York from 1849 until 1853.  The Lily originated as a temperance journal for the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society and was edited by Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894).

Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice
Original material from 30 libraries and archives including the British Library, Duke University, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL. Close attention has been given to the varieties of slavery, the legacy of slavery, the social justice perspective and the continued existence of slavery today.

 

Visit our New & Trial Resources page to find these and other newly added items. 

Trial access to three American history databases

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Until June 25th, you can investigate these databases, focusing on 19th and early 20th century American History:

The American West (archives drawn from the Western Americana collections at the Newberry Library, Chicago)

Everyday Life and Women in America, c.1800-1920 (archives from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture, Duke University and the New York Public Library)


Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice
 (drawn from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Duke University, U.S. Supreme Court, British Library, and others)

  • Please check these out and send comments to Rebekah Irwin (rirwin@middlebury.edu) or your library liaison.

Trial access to South Asian historical archives (through April 30)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

For the month of April, please visit the following East Asian historical archives databases. The Library is considering them through a collaboration with several Vermont colleges:

India Raj and Empire
Original manuscript material ranging from the foundation of the East India Company in 1615 to records of daily life in Agra, Bombay, Lahore, and Madras. Included are diaries, letters, maps, sketches and official and private papers. The collection is particularly strong for the 18th and 19th centuries.

Foreign Office Files for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, 1947-1980
Three archival collections drawn from the British Foreign Office files on the countries of South Asia from shortly before Indian partition and independence up to 1980. The archival documents are divided into the following sections: (1) Independence, Partition and the Nehru Era, 1947-1964, (2) South Asian Conflicts and Independence for Bangladesh, 1965-1971 (3) Afghanistan and the Cold War, Emergency Rule in India, and the Resumption of Civilian Rule in Pakistan, 1972-1980.

Empire Online
Empire Online is an interactive digital collection exploring colonial history, politics, culture and society. The archive is designed specifically to encourage the use of primary sources in teaching and includes 1000s of images of unique primary material including maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, paintings, drawings and rare books spanning five centuries from a translation of Columbus’s 1492 voyage to the 21st century.

Although these three collections are available separately, they can be searched as a group using Archive Explorer.

These trials can also be found on the New & Trial Resources page (go/trials).

Please send comments to Rebekah Irwin (rirwin@middlebury.edu) or your library liaison.

Trapped in the ’70s, Dreaming about the ’40s: What about Tomorrow?

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I’d like to write this entry in a slightly less belligerent tone that usual. Not that I think it will offend anyone in particular, but because I should really practice calming down once in a while.

Lebanon will soon be remembering the 35th anniversary of the beginning of its disastrously famous civil war (April 13th), and an article I read today on NowLebanon inspired me to think over the issue a bit. NowLebanon is an independent news site that leans towards the March 14th end of the political spectrum, and so what it says has to be taken with a grain or two of salt, but nonetheless I found the article, which was about memorials and memory in Lebanon, fairly spot-on.

In general, Lebanon is not very gung-ho about remembering its Civil War – it’s a touchy subject. Unfortunately, the end of the War did not really coincide with any sort of meaningful change of relations or attitudes between the parties involved – it was more like an end to killing. While nice enough, the Taif Accord did not really change the political scenery enough to prevent another war in the future. Furthermore, it is the older generation – those who experienced the war – that is least interested in violence, but the newest generation has been raised in an environment in which it hasn’t really been public discussion. Their discussions have been mostly private, and (if they’re anything like mine were) highly partison, which simply hands down old prejudices instead of rethinking them. The current generation, then, remembers very little or nothing of the War and its effect on the country. This is very, very dangerous.

In the developing world, the million dollar question has long been simply, ‘how do we move forward?’ The reality is that everyone has different ideas of what sort of future they want for their country, and Lebanon – a pluralistic society to some extent – is no exception. A country that cannot agree on the legacy of its past is crippled in the present, and so the task of moving forward, of making life better for the people now and in the future, is shelved or dead in the water. It is therefore important, one way or another – through public or private initiatives – for the Lebanese to address their past.

Possibly the worst thing the country did when it began reconstruction after the Civil War was to hire an architect to design the downtown area (now Place de l’Etoile) who essentially recreated the French mandate in architecture. Rather than hiring the famous Bernard Khouri, who had grand plans for Beirut that aimed to create a city space ‘of the future,’ Solidere recreated Lebanon as people wanted to remember it before the War, looking towards a moment of past glory that is in no way in sync with the present reality. Now, I will be the last to say that Place de l’Etoile is not pretty – it is beautiful, in fact. But instead of creating an urban space to orient Lebanese towards the future, it merely traps them in grandiose memories of a lost past – the French mandate and the Maronite hegemony associated with – whose power inequalities are simply  untenable today. It was the easy way out to construct this, because it essentially forgot the two decades of war. Personally, I’m glad some neighborhoods of the city are still gutted and flame-charred, because at least young passersby will look, shudder, and contemplate.

As the NowLebanon article notes, there is very little in the way of public art of memorials to form a coherent national history of the war, accessible to all Lebanese. The paucity of memorials is awful, but it should be acknowledged that memorials are almost impossible to agree upon, even when everyone is happy. Germany has had an awful time erecting monuments to the Holocaust, but there they are – and they are some of the best ones in the world. Without addressing its dark past, Germany could not move forward, and move forward it did. Lebanon, though not a mirror of Germany, will find its path ahead through this very lesson.
Why am I writing about this? Well (and here I’m going to mention that I am Lebanese-American again), it touches me pretty directly. On the other hand, Lebanon is often called the microcosm of the Middle East, and the lessons learned there might be applicable to its regional neighbors like Egypt and Iraq. So if I’m talking about a ‘lesson,’ it’s more or less something everyone already knows:  there can be no future if you are stuck in the past.  So please, let’s do ourselves a favor and get out of the past.

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