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Some time ago, the publisher of my book The Sacrificed Body: Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom, University of Pittsburgh Press, offered me a chance to present my book to an audience at another university of my choice. Finally, this February, I managed to combine invitations to give talks at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Universities of Copenhagen and Oslo in a single trip and organize what I liked to glamorously call my European Book Tour. Eight flights, three cities, three public lectures and two student seminars later I returned, exhausted but very happy with the entire experience and the interest the audiences showed in my book and the variety of material I discussed in it.
All three institutions were carefully selected as being small bases for the study of Balkan exotica and having solid programs in BCS. Programs, it is also true, that I learned were threatened by various bureaucratic and financial entanglements, but somehow still maintaining healthy enrollments (to an extent aided by heritage speakers) and doing interesting work. In addition to a public lecture, the colleagues at Copenhagen and Oslo scheduled workshop sessions with undergraduate and graduate students, respectively, which allowed for more time and a better engagement with the material in and beyond my book that I asked them to read. Among many other new colleagues I met, I was introduced to Višnja, a super sharp doctoral student from Croatia, who is doing groundbreaking work on metaphors employed by the national discourse in relation to language (anything with language being threatened, dying, imprisoned), for which so far there has been no precedent in literature; the undergrad Alex with a unique Greek origin from Montenegro; the BCS lecturer Martin Madsen, who speaks more beautiful Serbo-Croatian than I ever have and who shared materials about sacrifical immurements from his native island of Bornholm. Martin said that the Danish, when frustrated with their sluggish bureaucracy, claim that Denmark is the Balkans of Scandinavia—and methinks that strange sacrificial connection between Bornholm and the Balkans may not be totally accidental then and will need to be explored at the first opportunity.
Thankfully, the schedules of presentations and seminars left me with sufficient time to walk around and enjoy the beautiful cities and good food in the jovial company of new friends. No glamour attached whatsoever but an exilarating and beautiful experience nevertheless.