Barbarism and civilization form one of the oldest and most rigid oppositions in Western history. According to this dichotomy, barbarism functions as the negative standard through which "civilization" fosters its self-definition and superiority by labeling others "barbarians." Since the 1990s, and especially since 9/11, these terms have become increasingly popular in Western political and cultural rhetoric—a rhetoric that divides the world into forces of good and evil. This study intervenes in this recent trend and interrogates contemporary and historical uses of barbarism, arguing that barbarism also has a disruptive, insurgent potential. Boletsi recasts barbarism as a productive concept, finding that it is a common thread in works of literature, art, and theory. By dislodging barbarism from its conventional contexts, this book reclaims barbarism's edge and proposes it as a useful theoretical tool.
About the author
Maria Boletsi is Assistant Professor at the Film and Comparative Literature Department of Leiden University.
"What is innovative is Boletsi's analysis of what she calls a 'positive barbarism', which she unfolds in the latter part of the book . . . Her analysis of 'positive barbarism' operates on several interdependent levels . . . Boletsi has done a good deal of work and innovative thinking about the changing face of barbarism in modern life. Many will find, as I did, that her analysis sheds light on problems that inform their own work . . . Maria Boletsi has written a fine book. By bringing to the forefront the manner in which barbarism has defined the core values of culture and society, and the ways that concept has created discontent and the search for alternatives, she has created an important book that is a must-read for all students of culture in our time."
—Lary May, Modern Greek Studies Yearbook
"Our age is no less barbaric than any other time, though more efficient and more globally repercussive in its ability to perpetrate acts of barbarism. Boletsi's attempt to recoup and recast the notion of barbarism as redemptive force—discursive and worldly 'real'––is a timely and compelling undertaking that she carries out admirably and conscientiously."
—Djelal Kadir, Penn State University