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Now that “normalization” has come to seem a fact in post-communist eastern Europe, it might be asked why the word “normal” was so close to people’s hearts. How does its meaning in the context of transition compare to western usages of the word? A Begriffsgeshichte of the concept of “normality” reveals meanings that are multiple, historically changeable, contradictory, even oxymoronic.

Each nation establishes its borders, sometimes defines itself, certainly organises itself, and always affirms itself around its language, says Marc Hatzfeld. The language is then guarded by men of letters, by strict rules, not allowing for variety of expression. Against this backdrop, immigrants from ever more distant shores have arrived in France, bringing with them a different style of expression and another, more fluid, concept of language.

Superlocal identities

The European in the youth experience

European youth culture no longer blindly follows the US template: rappers in Europe voice local concerns while simultaneously connecting to global trends. Meanwhile, two-way interests have developed between commercial brands and artists, leaving politics and the mainstream media, after years of indifference, with a lot of catching up to do. Youth culture contains the germ of the European ideal, writes Tommi Laitio: but more needs to be done at the public level to cultivate the conditions in which it can thrive.

Abnormals of all nations, unite!

On the exceptionality of political liberty

Can a democratic constitution be called “normal”, something we can expect? Historically, an exemplary constitution has been the exception to the rule: according to political philosophers from the classical period to the nineteenth century, “Imitating or perpetuating this constitution requires exceptional strength, skill, and determination.” Today, writes Catalin Avramescu, what is worrying is not so much the number of failed democracies as the extensive misuse of democratic institutions, symbols, and practices.

The question of national scientific languages, though one of many issues touching on the relationship of the national and the global, is especially sensitive in the Slovenian context. Whether or not Slovene scientists chose to publish in Slovene is more a matter of values than external compulsion, writes Emica Antoni.

Anthroplogist Monique Selim recalls her research into social structures in French housing estates in the 1970s and the taboos she ran up against on talking about the existence of working-class racism. Today, academic and media discourse on minorities, migration, and otherness has become ethnicized so that it no longer sets itself apart from the language of the street. While ethnic catagorization can act as an instrument against discrimination, it can also, when imposed in an ontological fashion onto society, encourage the tendency to create a gap between the self and other.

Practising owning and fearing losing

Normality as materiality

Established transitional narratives of “then and now” omit a central attribute of “normality” that existed during socialism: materiality, or the chance to establish oneself as an owner and maker of things. Elena Trubina suggests that it was eastern Europeans’ resourcefulness during times of scarcity that prepared them for the change and ensured the continuity of experience.

Opinion surveys conducted in the UK and Germany report a growing tendency among young Muslims to reject mainstream norms. Their affirmation of Muslim identity and its critique of decadent western culture is an act of dissidence, argues Jörg Lau. The reservations of the non-Muslim majority towards self-segregating practices can be understood as a sign that the Islamic critique of decadence has been understood and its moral presumption rejected. Nevertheless, some commentators maintain that if young Muslims reject society, they have been driven to do so. An act of self-exclusion is thus reinterpreted as the fault of the majority. This alliance between liberalism and religiosity is coming under increasing criticism, not least from Muslim women who know the value of freedom better than most.

The EU has long attempted to combat Hollywood’s “American cultural imperialism”. But it is difficult to label Hollywood in national-cultural terms. Hollywood and its cultural industry has been a globalized arena with practitioners and investors from most corners of the world for many years.

You've got to swing your hips!

A conversation with Feridun Zaimoglu

German author Feridun Zaimoglu, pioneer of the “Kanak” school of fiction (the migrant underworld described in the vernacular of its young male protagonists), has begun narrating from the Muslim woman’s perspective. In his latest novel Leyla, a Turkish woman tells about her life in Germany; while in a new work for theatre entitled Schwarze Jungfrauen (Black Virgins), young Muslim women talk openly about sex. In March 2007, Zaimoglu ruffled feathers when he gave up his place at an official conference on Muslims in Germany in protest at the non-attendance of young ordinary Muslims and criticized feminist former-Muslims for demonizing young Muslim women. With characteristic verve, he explained to Ali Fathollah-Nejad why the discourse in Germany operates double values when it comes to the questions of multiculturalism and integration.

Zones of indifference

The world in a "state of exception": On the relations of "populism", "public sphere" and "terrorism"

The events of 9/11 introduced a “state of exception”. As a result, the social and political struggles of the de-classed now operate in a zone of indifference which threatens democracy.

New wave atheism is aggressively antagonistic to religion. But, argues Richard Norman, it’s more fruitful to find common ground.

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