Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Elizabeth Dauphinee's "The Politics of Exile"

Elizabeth Dauphinee is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her research interests involve autoethnographic and narrative approaches to international relations, Levinasian ethics and international relations theory, and the philosophy of religion. She has traveled and researched extensively throughout Bosnia and Serbia and spent much time writing in order to bury her own ghosts from those experiences.

Dauphinee applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Politics of Exile, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Politics of Exile is representative of one aspect of the postwar experience of Bosnian Serbs - the reluctant migration of those whose futures and pasts have been shattered by the conflict. As Jelena prepares to depart for Canada with her new husband, Milan, she shares a final coffee with the father of her first love, Luka, who was killed during the war. As they sit together at the kitchen table for what is probably the last time, neither of them suspect that Milan is implicated in Luka’s death. Each in their own way, Milan and Jelena hope that emigrating from Bosnia will help them bury their pasts, but the ghosts and memories follow them into their new lives. This tale and others are interwoven throughout a larger narrative: the relationship between an international politics professor and her Bosnian Serb translator, who is the younger brother of Jelena’s murdered love. The translator seeks his brother’s killer in Canada as the professor learns of his own crimes in the war. The Politics of Exile explores personal and civilizational guilt, displaced and fractured identity, secrets and subterfuge, love and alienation, and the impossibility of ethics.

From Page 99:
…She wanted to run out of there as fast as she could go. But instead, she sat down at the table. And she knew then that she would go to Canada with Milan.

“I will go to Canada with Milan Milanovic´,” she said quietly.

“I know,” old Sokolovic´ nodded. He reached into the pocket of the same sweater that had once held Stojan’s invitation to report for active duty, and withdrew an envelope. He handed it to her across the table, and she saw that it was stuffed with German marks.

“Please don’t, father,” she said to him, embarrassed. “I’ll be alright.”

“No, no,” he insisted, and his voice was hoarse and weak. “Canada is a good state, but you need money.”

“Please, father,” she begged. “Give it to Stojan.”

“There is enough for Stojan,” he said firmly. “This is what is left, and it is for you and Milan.” He pressed the envelope upon her, and she reluctantly accepted it.

“Now drink your coffee,” the old man implored her.

She did, and they sat together in those difficult, painful circumstances, looking at each other and knowing that, if the war had not come, things would be dramatically different. Sokolovic´ sighed, and gave voice to her own thoughts when he said helplessly, “I don’t know what this war was for.”

Jelena was silent. She had never understood what the war was for. All it produced were the dead and disappeared. All of this terrible loss, tides of refugees, hillsides covered with landmines. All of these rumors about concentration camps and rapes.

“We lost, we Serbs, didn’t we?” he asked.

Jelena nodded.

“I lost my son for nothing,” the old man whispered. “We couldn’t hold our own lines.”

“How could they be held against NATO?” she asked in return. “The mood of the world turned against us.” She thought about the things she had heard about what Serbs had done. She thought of Stojan, sitting blankly in the next room.

They looked at one another across the table, and the coffee steamed pleasantly between them.

“Daughter,” Sokolovic´ began, and then hesitated.

She waited for him to go on…
Learn more about The Politics of Exile at the Routledge website.

--Marshal Zeringue