Lecture 4



Ourselves as Others





The question of our own identity will be the topic of this lecture. At the same time that we perceive others as others, we are others for them. It seems logical and almost self-evident, but is it?


Let us examine some of the practical consequences of alterity. I will deal here with two levels of alterity – gender and nationalism.





When it comes to gender, the distinction seems quite clear – it is “us” (women/men) and “them” (men/women). But is it really that clear or symmetrical? The two-gender division that most of operate with in our everyday lives is actually more a matter of convention than of actual biological differences. Until the 1950s, doctors were not very eager to determine the gender of a baby which would be born with both male and female reproductive organs. After this date, with the discoveries of  “male” and  “female” hormones, things have changed dramatically – any baby has to be either male or female. No other option. (Which is actually a bit silly, since there are males with high levels of estrogen and females with high levels of testosteron – and in most cases, they do not differ in any way from other, “proper” males or females. This is a medical fact and doctors are well aware of it.) Also, what to do with hermaphrodites? In the mid-19th century, they were (in the medical practice of the time) accepted as a “third sex.” A bit unusual, but that was it. They were there – no one really tried to push them to choose to be “women” or “men.” Things get even more complicated with transsexuals – there are men who are genetically female but male in their body appearance (and with male reproductive organs), and women wfo are genetically male, but female in their body appearance (these are actually the most common cases where the sex change operations are being administered). What to do with them? How to classify them? And why this obsessive, almost neurotic urge to classify everyone?


I have already refered to the “otherness” of men in relation to women (quoting Marilyn Strathern) in Lecture 1. Things are more complicated in the discourses on equality and difference. As put by the French feminist theorist Luce Irigaray:


To demand equality as women is, it seems to me, a mistaken expression of a real objective. The demand to be equal presupposes a point of comparison. To whom or to what do women want to be equalized? To men? To a salary? To a public office? To what standard? Why not to themselves?

                                                            (Irigaray 1993a: 12)


The emphasis that I am primarily interested in is present in Irigaray’s discussions of gender differentiation and difference. Each gender is postulated as the other in regard to the other (again) gender. Their value is (at least, it should be) equal, but with the recognition of all the differences. Although some of Irigaray’s historical considerations leave much to mere speculation (for example, a consideration of ancient matriarchy as the “rule of the female genealogies,” when the world was supposedly a much easier place to live in, starting from Bachoffen’s Mutterrecht, etc.[1]), her analysis of factual inequalities (or, as she would say, the collapsing of both male and female genealogies into male ones only, with all its cultural and social implications [1993b: v]) offers a solution in realizing that the basis for a meaningful relationship between the sexes (and for Irigaray, the true extent of the relationship of men and women as equals is expressed in and through love [Irigaray 1992a, 1992b]) should be negotiated in terms of different identities. Male and female identities are essentially different, and one has to realize that in order to comprehend “the other” in this relationship. Male and female identities complement each other, but they can never be “translated” or in any way subsumed in one another. Some of the basic problems in gender relations today lie in the fact that too often people try exactly this, some kind of “translation,” and Irigaray realizes that the roots of this are actually much wider and part of the specific cultural milieu. Claims for equality are somewhat paradoxical, because they usually do not question the underlying power-structures that govern societies:


If the female gender does make a demand, all too often it is based upon a claim for equal rights and this risks ending in the destruction of gender. Comedy arises out of this collision of rights and duties since it expresses the contradiction of an absolute in opposition. 

                                                                        (1993b: 115)

Irigaray almost mocks women that “decide to become equal” in a more traditional sense:


In order to escape this situation, a certain number of women have decided to become men’s equals (...) Identifying with men allows them a sexuality which seems more free and ‘sporty’, part masculine, part feminine. It does not fulfil them emotionally or culturally.

                                                                        (1992b: 3)


In another lecture (in 1984), Irigaray makes her objections to the claims of equality clearer, as well as the wider context in which the events that she is writing about take place:


Claims that men, races, sexes, are equal in point of fact signal a disdain or a denial for real phenomena and give rise to an imperialism that is even more pernicious than those that retain traces of difference. Today it is all too clear that there is no equality of wealth, and claims of equal rights to culture have blown up in our faces. All those who advocate equality need to come to terms with the fact that their claims produce a greater and greater split between the so-called equal units and those authorities or transcendencies used to measure or outmeasure them (...) Any woman who is seeking equality (with whom? with what?) needs to give this problem serious consideration. It is understandable that women should wish for equal pay, equal career opportunities. But what is their real goal?

                                                                        (1993b: vi)


The real goal, according to Irigaray, should be that women should demand that their status in society be negotiated on the basis of a system of differences.[2] They should also make clear the message that “without women, there is no society.” This is related to the whole series of underlying assumptions that are prevalent in our (Western or Westernized) cultures and societies, for:


It is clear that our societies assume that the mother should feed her child for free, before and after the birth, and that she should remain the nurse of man and society. She is the totem before any totem is designated, identified, represented. This state of affairs must be understood if we are to learn how a woman, or women, can find a place without remaining shadowy nurses. This traditional role that is allotted to women almost ritually paralyzes male society as well and permits the continued destruction of the natural reserves of life. It sustains the illusion that food should come to us free, and, in any case, can never fail us. In the same way, women could never fail us, especially mothers.

                                                            (1993b: 83)


One of the most important points that Irigaray repeatedly makes is the notion of dependence (women can never fail us), which she connects with the mismanagement of the environmental resources, ecological crisis, etc. (in fact, she has published several lectures about the moral and psychological consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster). This is a very important point, and the fact is that it figures much more prominently in the writings of female scholars. 


Despite the explicit claim that the kind of factual inequality that Irigaray describes (dependence instead of interdependence)  is directly responsible for ecological disasters and warfare (and that, essentially, by their “nature,” only men are responsible for them), Irigaray somewhat idealizes the image of woman the nurturer herself. Would everything be just fine if only women were in charge? Well, we simply do not know. What we do know, however, is that it is a fact that women are supposed to give (rent?) their bodies for pleasure (not necessarily their own) and for procreation. 


According to Irigaray (for example, 1993a), most  legal and cultural codes justify these uses of the body (particularly the procreation part) in terms of some “natural right” or obligation. But, if every other transaction in the contemporary (Western or Westernized) world has a price and is formally (legally) regulated, Irigaray has the right to ask: why not put a price on how much it costs to raise a child?[3] (If someone wants to do it for free, she can, but this should not be set as an obligation  for everyone.)[4] 


The way out of this paradoxical situation lies in the recognition of female genealogies as both different  and equal  to male genealogies,[5] as well as in the recognition and codification of this culture of difference (to paraphrase the title of her recent book). As she wrote in 1988 (in the introduction to the Japanese translation of the Elemental Passions):


While man has a spiritual and natural reference as he becomes a man, woman no longer belongs except biologically, and the world of man has made that biology its own. Men exchange virgin daughters in order to establish families or tribes or states, they marry women to found their dynasties, they impregnate them to become fathers and have a posterity.

                                                                                    (1992b: 2)



However, when Irigaray steps on the terrain of codification (legal protection of women both as virgins and as mothers [1993a: 86-90]), it is difficult to see how she intends to convince the holders of power (the _ males?) to give up their hold on it. If I enjoy certain rights and privileges, even if it means that some other people have less rights and privileges, why should I give them up? It seems that the appeal to the culture of difference is based on the (in my opinion completely unjustified) assumption that there is something inherently good in “human nature,”[6] something that strives to make life for other fellow human beings as nice and easy as possible. The entire human history teaches us exactly the opposite.


On the other hand, Irigaray continues, women have a powerful weapon exactly because they are different. Sexual difference, apart from being a source of miscomprehension, is also the card that they can play with, by exploring and (in a way) utilizing their own sexuality. This implies primarily that women should be made aware of their own bodies and be able to accept them in a different dimension. The key term that Irigaray uses, jouissance,[7] implies a word play that is untranslatable in English, the main meaning being “enjoyment” (although in a sense that is stronger than the meaning of this concept in English[8]), “joy,” or “bliss,” but the closest translation would be the kind of happiness and joy that comes with and follows immediately after orgasm. The message that Irigaray tries to put across is not that this makes women inherently superior to men (of course, in terms of possibilities of experiencing jouissance, it does, and Irigaray frequently points to the essential plurality  by and through which women experience their sexuality[9]), but that by realizing their own true potential (as well as their difference), women could and should be able to overcome obstacles that cultures and societies put before them.[10]  Or, as summarized by Irigaray:


For this culture to advance, therefore, new models of sexual identity must be established. Woman must be valued as a daughter (a virgin for herself, and not so that her body has an exchange value amongst men), as a lover, and in her own line. This means that she should not be subordinated first to her father, her uncle or her brother, then to her husband’s line, nor to the values of a masculine identity, whether these be social, economic or cultural. She therefore needs her own linguistic, religious and political values. She needs to be situated and valued, to be she in relation to her self.

                                                                        (1992b: 3)



This also opens the question of identity, as well as of generalization. For even in the (Western) societies that Irigaray is talking about, there is not one image[11] or obstacle to be overcome. There are as many wrong images and forced identities as there are oppressed women — so is it really possible to define (or even to concieve) a single voice speaking for them?  


Apart from these problems of authority and position, there are problems with biological arguments in either way. Some women (especially in the Anglo-American academic circles) have profitted from the “affirmative action” that gave them preference when applying to jobs over males with same qualifications. However, some other women (women of color, lesbians, Third World women, cyberchicks, etc.) have questioned their right to speak for them. In fact, while the feminist and gender-oriented scholarship continues to be dominated by well-situated and well-positioned white educated heterosexual women, the voices of authors like Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, Trin Minh-ha, bel hooks, Faith Wilding, or the collective VNS Matrix are being heard, and a new wave of gender-conscious scholarship is emerging.  (Most recently, this line of criticism was also employed by Verena Stolcke from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.)


One of the most interesting lines of argumentation for the proponents of more rights for women because they are women (“weaker” or “gentler” sex) is that they are potential mothers. This argument goes in several directions. One is based on the so-called imagery of the so-called “Mother Goddess” (especially championed by authors like Marija Gimbutas – who have never done actual field work in the Southeastern European regions that they discuss). This theory is actually based on the Bachoffen’s concept of Muterrecht and on the evolutionary scheme (made especially popular by Fridrich Engels in the 19th century) according to which women were once dominating in human societies. Of course, based on all the available archaeological data, we know now that this was never the case. Male domination (although in varying degrees) has been present in human societies, and that is the fact – whether we like it or not. It does not mean that things should have necessarily been that way ­– but it is the way the story went. It is completely the other question of how were the actual narratives of human evolution packaged and presented (and still continue to be presented) to the generations of students – I would like to draw attention to a particular book (there are probably more, but I am most aware of this one), Becoming Human, by Nancy M. Tanner – a brilliant account on human evolution without the fancy “Great Goddess” stuff, but also without the male bias.


The other line of the biological argument has to do with women as the ones that enable the nation to live on – “mothers of a nation” – and it converges with many arguments of various nationalists. In this line of argumentation, the role of mothers was to be extended to the whole of society — by taking care of the young, they were contributing to the society’s future; by vacating jobs (while taking care of the young), they were contributing to its present. 


A young Slovenian scholar, Natasa Djuric, pointed out in her Diploma Thesis some of the images of women in fascist and Nazi discourses. These images are strangely similar to the ones demanding that women find their “proper place” in the kitchen and, especially, through children. This imagery is readily associated with some of the most oppressive social and political systems in human history.[12] For example, in the 1920s and 1930s, Mussolini raised taxes for the single people and childless couples, and instituted money rewards for every new child. “The more children, the better, ” was the message, and it was considered particularly convenient if families would have more than four children — since in that case it was assumed that they  (the children) would also be healthier. “Fertile” mothers were especially highly regarded — just before the 1937 New Year, 95 largest  families in Italy were awarded money prizes and special medals (Djuric in Bahovec 1993a: 60). 


Following some of the arguments and examples that the late Wilhelm Reich used in his book Mass Ideology of Fascism, Djuric also traces the identification of motherland with mother. In these discourses,  mothering is seen as the main function of the woman, and the image of woman as a mother and protector is subsequently projected onto the state.  This protector then has its “chosen representatives”— for example, when Hitler was once asked when  he intended to get married, he replied: “I am already married. My wife is Germany” (quoted by Djuric in Bahovec 1993a: 62). The strength of a nation is judged by, among other things, the number of its inhabitants. As a result of this, any proposals that might reduce the number of inhabitants (and anything dealing with birth control and reproductive rights of women!) can be regarded as hostile to the well-being of a nation. And nationalists are always quick to point this out. Barbara Einhorn points at the fact that when the newly emerging states of East Central Europe started modifying and changing their legal systems, reproductive rights were very high on the list of priorities that needed to be erased from the recent communist past. In fact, they were second only to reversing the abolishment of private property.





Just like women who are supposed to be universal “mothers”, so does the nation provide for a sense of collective (ethnic) security and “warmth.” Just like the statement (quoted by Irigaray, above), that “women can never fail us,” the same goes for a nation. In fact, in some cultures this connection and feeling of belonging gets incorporated in the way of speaking or referring to one’s nation – “Mother Russia,” for example. In other cases, and when it comes to ethnic conflicts, “enemy” nations are referred to as being “effeminate” or not “manly enough” – and here gender is used as a sign of weakness. (Dr. Ivan Colovic from the Ethnographic Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences & Arts has demonstrated amply in his work on the ethnography of the everyday life, how official Serbian discourses during the war against Croatia represented Croats as “women,” which was equated to “cowards.” ) “Manly” nations are strong and powerful, any sign of weakness is equated to or associated with femininity.


Nations also present good examples of otherness. In the Southeastern Europe, and in the Balkans in particular, “the Other” is frequently other nation, other ethnic group or other tribe. The Balkan wars of 1912-1913 demonstrated incredible amounts of savagery to the “civilized” (i. e.,  Western) world, and it launched into the scholarly use a new concept – Balkanization. As nicely demonstrated by Marija Todorova in her brilliant Imagining the Balkans, the whole concept of the Balkans is a construction, and negative connotations derived from the term primarily have to do with Balkan wars – in total disregard of the actual historical/cultural context(s), or the level(s) of violence elsewhere (within the “civilized world”). (A Slovenian friend of mine recently wrote to me from South Africa, where she was conducting research, referring to an ongoing cycle of violence there: “They keep asking me about the war [in Yugoslavia] here – but here there is a war going on as well, day by day.”)


But to go back to nations, and in particular when it comes to Southeastern Europe. There are some widespread misconceptions that have to do with national or ethnic identities, and I will outline them here briefly.


1.      There are “pure” or “clean” ethnic identities.

This is one of the most popular and most common misconceptions. Curiously enough, this view is held not only by members of the Balkan South Slav ethnic groups, but also by some of their Western supporters or critics. Ethnic identity is clearly a construction – this is an anthropological fact. If one wants an empirical confirmation of this fact, here come Balkan countries.


Many independent observers (especially from the West) have noted a fact that it is impossible to make distinction, for example, between Serbs and Croats. By all accounts, especially by some specific cultural traits (language, daily rituals, etc.) Croatian Serbs were much closer to their Croat neighbors, than to the “Serbia proper” Serbs. Linguists sometimes mockingly remark that, in fact, it could be said that all the people living from the Slovenian side of the Alps to Zagreb speak the same language, and that the same can be said for all the people living between Varna on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, to Ohrid in Macedonia.


This imagined “purity” is also a problem when it comes to the Serbian and Croatian language. Although there are clearly dialects in Croatia which differ considerably from the Serbian, these two languages are so similar, that many foreigners (especially the ones unaware of the present “political correctness”) simply treat them as one language. This can create considerable problems in everyday situations, especially in Croatia (because of the influx of the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, it is becoming more common to hear Croatian versions of language in Belgrade), when people can treat a foreigner uttering a “pure” Serbian word as some kind of a provocateur.


Things get even more complicated when one goes through the actual historical

records. For example, St. Sava, who founded the Serb Orthodox Church in the 13th century, and who is a Serb historical figure of almost mythical proportions, never identified himself as a Serb! Since the Byzantine Empire was the leading power of the time, with the culture which set standards throughout the Southeastern Europe, people who meant something (or wanted to mean something) at the time, identified themselves as Romejs” – meaning: subjects of the Byzantine Empire – and St. Sava was no exception. So, we have an example of the founder of the Serb Orthodox Church, who never identified himself as a Serb! Serbs present other good examples of thee actual ethnic diversification, since the present territory of Serbia was settled between 7th and 11th century CE by around nine South Slavic tribes – only one of which was called “Serbs” (Sorabi). To complicate the “purity” issue even further – the Serb Orthodox Church was founded and survived in the beginning (just like the first Serbian medieval kingdom) only because of the financial and political support of the Vatican. The crown for the first Serbian king came from the Vatican.[13]


2.      Cultural identity is something which clearly delimits different “nations.”


This is an interesting misconception, which presupposes at least two different  things:

        that there is such a thing as a distinctive cultural identity; and

        that there are in fact different “nations.”


Again, cultural identity in the Balkans can be a quite tricky thing, as witnessed by the examples of medieval history, sacred places, and actual location of various ethnic groups. I prefer to use the term “ethnic group” – I find it much more appropriate than the term “nation,” since the latter presupposes a certain hierarchy between “nations,” “tribes,” “clans,” etc., while in the “real life” there is no justification for any such hierarchy. A member of the Papua New Guinea tribe and a member of the Belgian nation should be treated with the same respect.


But, back to identity.


Slav Macedonian history is a nice example of a desperate attempt to found one’s “national origins” as far back as possible, with its insistence on ties with the ancient Macedonians (led by Alexander the Great), going back to the 4th century BCE (1,000 years before Slavs even came to the Balkan peninsula!). Another strange thing is insistence on the heroics of the King Samoil, who rebeled against the Byzantine Empire in the early 10th century CE, and established Ohrid as its capital. His short-lived kingdom (910-937) stretched from northern Greece, through present-day Republic of Macedonia, all the way to what is today Belgrade in the north. Despite the fact that Slav Macedonians refer to King Samoil as “Macedonian,” in the most important written document left by him, Samoil specifically refers to himself as “King of all the Bulgars (Bulgarians).” This is hardly encouraging for the proponents of the Macedonian mythical past.


South Slavs are also quite commonly attached to their churches, monasteries, and other “holy places.” These, however, do not necessarily correspond to the actual political or even ethnic boundaries – thus, the Slovenian Gosposvetsko polje is in the present-day Austria. The Krka monastery of the Serb Orthodox Church is within Croatia, and it has been used as an example of the Serb presence in these parts of Croatia from at least 14th century. However, the actual historical records refer to the inhabitants of the region as Vlachs (Vlasi, Valasi, Volasi, etc.), traditional shepherds who can trace their origins to the ancient inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula – majority of whom were Orthodox Christians. However, they were not Serbs.


Finally, the region of Kosovo is very symptomatic, and here is where two idealist histories clash. The Serb official history claim that Kosovo was always Serbian, as witnessed by a number of Serb Orthodox churches, monasteries, etc. (the seat of the Patriarchate was there as well). They also claim that Kosovo is “the craddle of the Serbian [medieval] state” – which is obviously false, since the first Serb medieval state was founded in Ras (Raska), just north of Kosovo. On the other hand, Albanian historians claim that (starting from the actual demographic situation) Kosovo was always Albanian. As a matter of fact, medieval Ottoman Turkish sources and censuses can help solve this puzzle, and it is very curious that Serb historians refuse to use them, since they clearly show that there was a Christian (predominantly Slavic) population at Kosovo until the 17th century. Thus, the Kosovo conflict is also a conflict between two alternative histories, each one of them establishing itself through a total exclusion of “the other side.” As such, it is impossible to solve, especially through the discussions between the conflicting sides – the only (temporary) solution would have to be imposed from outside.


1.      Things can be solved or settled by invoking “tradition.”


This is a misconception which tries to settle one construct by positioning another in its place. Tradition is in fact never invoked because of something that happened in the past (thus forming a part of a “national tradition” or “national heritage”) – it is always used either to explain something taking place in the present, or to justify some proposed political aim in the future.


This is a good example of history understood in the modern sense – as not really being story of or about the past. History used in this sense is a classical example of history which is always being written about the present, from the perspective of the present – and for very specific (and current) political goals.


Cultural traditions are notoriously difficult do disentangle in the Balkans. For example, the only Yugoslav Nobel laureate, a writer Ivo Andric, was born (and mostly wrote about) the present day Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, in his youth, he identified himself as a Croat, and from the 1930s onwards lived in Belgrade and identified himself as a Serb. Therefore, a problem of clearly locating figure of such a stature is a considerable one – Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs would all want Andric to be just “one of them,” but his own actions and beliefs make this task an impossible one. (A Croatian literary critic recently asked for a re-editing of his works in Croatia, cleansing them of all the “Serbisms.”)


Cultural traditions of all the Southeastern peoples are incredibly interconnected and interrelated, and things get particularly messy when one ventures into the Middle Ages. Although nations are a recent invention (post-17th century Western European), peoples from this part of the world like to stress their origin backwards, almost to the point of the beginning of time. Some pseudo-scientific theories tried to connect Slovenians with Etruscans, and to trace the origin of Croats in the ancient Persia. Being a member of a Slavic tribe is obviously not something that many nationalists pride themselves on. However, the truth is that these theories remain in the realm of daydreaming and wishful thinking. On the other hand, they might be seen as examples of the sheer desperation of their creators – only people totally uncertain about themselves and about their own identity would try to come up with some fantastic stories, involving denials of the identity of Others (in the Southeastern Europe, usually their neighbors).


Problems also arise when a nation wants to refer to the more specific historical tradition – for example, many Croat nationalists are quite sympathetic to the pro-fascist Independent State of Croatia, which existed during the Second World War. However, the Republic of Croatia historically draws its continuity upon the anti-fascist movement and the decisions of State Antifascist Council of the National Liberation of Croatia (ZAVNOH) from 1943 – some of the leading Croatian politicians, including her President, Mr. Franjo Tudjman, were very prominent in the anti-fascist struggle. This is the fact almost impossible to reconcile for an average nationalist: on the one hand, everything coming from the former country, under the communist rule, was bad, but on the other, the very seeds of an independent and free Croatia can be traced exactly to the communists!




So what does all this mean for the creation of one’s own identity? Only that we are others to others as well as ourselves, and that we might try to understand others before simply rejecting them because they are different or because they do not confrom to some of our own (always imagined, always constructed) standards.


I have to note (although it might have been obvious in the course of these lectures) that I regard identity primarily as a construction – based on the variety of factors. It is also a very individual thing – so I see any form of imposition of identity from the outside as a form of violence, a violation of one’s own personal integrity and freedom. (Then, of course, people are free to choose not to be free – a case in question are elections throughout the former Yugoslavia, where people quite happily – and freely – voted for their nationalist leaderships.) No one can be English, or Serb, or Albanian, or Macedonian “in essence.” One can feel as a member of a particular ethnic group and feel that he/she owes allegiance to a particular ethnic group – but then we are talking about feelings, emotions – things that cannot be measured or determined in any scholarly way. There is no exact definition of what a nation is – and authors that wrote about nationalism recently like Ernest Gellner or Eric Hobsbawm were seriously mistaken in their belief that nationalism is a thing of the past and it is doomed to fail with increasing development and realization of the arbitrariness of everything involved with it.


Nationalism is one of the most widespread (and most popularly accepted) form of racism, since it postulates that “we” are better than “them” because of our nation. This is related to mythical narratives about the “chosen people” (for example, Jews) or nations with “one thousand years of history” (for example, Catalans or Croats). If one assumes the right (based on the special status of her/his ethnic group) to judge all the others as inferior simply because they “belong” to other ethnic groups, it opens space for violence – violence of the kind that was demonstrated on the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. If one accepts other ethnic groups as equal, then the question arises of what place does his/her own “tribe” has in relation/comparison to other ethnic groups. Of course, in the end, it all depends on which way ethnic group(s) will choose to claim and ascertain – their difference could be simply stated with respect of others that they come in contact, or with disrespect, leading to violence. However, and I would like to conclude with this point, any assertion of one’s own particular ethnic identity will eventually lead to some form of violence directed against “others” – for the simple reason that they are not one of “us”.


[1]  Cf. her brief analysis in 1993a: 17-19, which is based on stereotype that there was at some point some kind of a “matriarchal” society, when goddesses ruled over gods, and the life was much less violent and more oriented towards genuine human needs.

[2]  Irigaray starts from a different premise, but her question is identical to the one posed by bel hooks: “Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to?” (quoted in Svab 1996a: 6).

[3]  For the examination of the “naturalness” of associating women primarily with childbearing, see also Collier and Yanagisako 1987: 32-33 and Quinn 1977: 188, 191-193.

[4]  Although this line of argumentation may appear shocking or at least fairly unpleasant, I do find Irigaray’s argument reasonable.  If certain things or categories are constructed by society in a certain way, it still does not mean that they could not be reexamined and perhaps reevaluated.

[5]  She frequently points at the importance of the mother/daughter relationship as the one relationship that is frequently being neglected.  A somewhat different perspective is offered by Julia Kristeva when she discusses the paintings of the Italian renaissance artist Bellini (Kristeva 1980).

[6]  I would object to the notion that anything like “human nature” even exists.

[7]  The same concept is used, although in a slightly different context, by Julia Kristeva in her writings on motherhood and pregnancy (Dallery 1990: 275-276). Cixous uses jouissance to refer to “pleasure,” for example in her discussion of the “economies of pleasure” (1994: 131-136).

[8]  For example, jouissance de la vivre  would mean “enjoying life to its fullest.” The word jouissance  also implies happiness connected with the possession of some valuable thing. Its root comes from the verb jouir, one of whose main meanings is “to come,” and nowadays is used in French almost exclusively in the sexual context.

[9]  Which can also serve to stress the plurality of possible experiences of sexual pleasure that women have, a universe of possibilities from which men are (by biology) excluded.  A point that is also discussed in detail by Cixous, for example 1989: 107.

[10]  Cf. the ancient Greek perspective as outlined by Winkler (1990: 205-206), which closely corresponds with Irigaray’s views. Female sexuality is seen as a source (not the only one, of course) of female power, not weakness.

[11]  Or perception; the perceived image of some situation as in any way “natural.”

[12]  Cf. Einhorn 1993: 9 and Chapter 3 for the situation in East Central Europe. Serbian nationalists have also recently called upon the mothers to bear more children (Einhorn 1993: 105).

[13]  St. Sava declared secession from the Ohrid Archbishopry without the approval of the highest Orthodox Christian authorities of the time. This is something that people from the Serbian church do not like to mention. When the Macedonian Orthodox Church formally separated from the Serb Orthodox Church in 1964, the Serb church authorities refused to accept this, claiming that the Macedonian church (more precisely, its lands, churches, monasteries, etc.) have “always” been Serbian.