Philosophy for the Baltic Regional Studies: Maria Mälksoo and Leonidas Donskis

Maria Mälksoo and her book “The Politics of Becoming European: a study of Polish and Baltic post-Cold War security imaginaries“ (published by Routledge) is an outstanding example how political philosophy as well as identity theory can be integrated into regional studies. This time it is under the topic of the politics of becoming European. The Estonian scholar, Maria Mälksoo, applied her reserch interests in political anthropology and European memory politics to her book in order to interpretate recent political events along with deeper philosophical insight and numerous references to such philosophers as Rorty or Foucault. Literature classics such as Milan Kundera or Czeslaw Milosz are there intervowen with the thoughts of such renown dissidents as Adam Michnik or Vaclav Havel in order to bring additional dimension to the analysis of political events.

On the back of the book we read the word of the publisher:
“The Central argument of this book is that the historical experience of being framed as simultaneously in Europe – and yet not quite in Europe – informs the current self-understanding and security imaginaries of Poland and the Baltic States. Exploring this existential condition of liminal Europeanness‘ among foreign and security policy making elites, the book considers its effects on key security policy issues, including relations with Western Europe, Russia and the United States.“

Leonidas Donskis and his editted book along with his article and introductory word for “A Litmus Test Case of Modernity: examining modern sensibilities and the public domain in the Baltic States at the turn of the century“ (published by Peter Lang) is a collection of essays/articles. The book covers a variety of topics starting with journalism in the Baltics ending with academically sexy themes such as memory and self-perception. Fortunately or unfortunately, the intorductory word and the article written by Leodinas Donskis is the most conspicuous text of the book due to the quality and depth of thought. The Lithuanian scholar L. Donskis applies philosophical concepts to regional studies field and proves that the former becomes alive in the latter. In the introductory word, just as in his public speaches, the author reminds us big names as rooted locally, almost parochially, but “Baltically“, although the following names we tend to associate with Paris or melting pot America or other cosmopolitan places. Donskis writes:

“It suffices to recall those who inscribed the names of the Litvaks and Lithuania on the cultural map of the twentieth century world – the philosophers Emmanuel Lévinas and Aron Gurwitsch, the painters Chaïm Soutine (a close friend of Amedeo Modigliani in Paris), Pinkus Krémégne, Michel Kikoine, Marc Chagall (all these painters were related to Belarus and, in one way or another, to Lithuania – most importantly, all were Litvaks) and Neemija Arbitblatas, the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, the violinist Jascha Heifetz and the art critic Bernard Berenson.“ (p.10)

How rich are those few lines with history and culture of Lithuania, of the Baltics, and of Eastern Europe.

Thus, where does here regional studies start and where does here philosophy, culture, politics, memory and self-perception ends ? This question is irrelevant as Maria Mälksoo and Leonidas Donskis in their separate works showed that what is relevant is how all of that is interwoven.

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