Playing Catch Up

Many people I’ve interviewed in East-Central Europe have talked about their initial expectations in 1989-90 that their countries would soon leap the development gap and join Europe proper. Within a few years, they thought they’d be living in the equivalent of Austria or Italy. When several years went by, and then several more, and they were still not living in these Austria-like countries,...
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Curating the Curators

There is an art to curation. Curators must not only choose the works for an exhibition, which involves making aesthetic judgments about “good” and “bad” as well as what fits together according to the exhibition’s theme. Curators must also provide a context for understanding the art. They put texts on the wall that identify histories, genealogies, themes. They produce catalogs that...
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Reconnecting the Balkans

When I was traveling in East-Central Europe in 1990, I had only a handful of contacts outside of Poland, where I had lived the year before. I usually arrived in some capital city and started calling the few numbers I had. Then I relied on those people to connect me to their friends, their colleagues, and sometimes their political adversaries as well. So it was that I was exiting a café in...
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What’s Not at the Museum of Broken Relationships

You can find a Newsweek cover depicting President Barack Obama with the caption, “I really wanted it to work out.” There is also a portrait of Ivo Sanader, the former Croatian prime minister. The accompanying note from Kasum Cana, the president of the Croatian Roma Forum, explains that his “emotional relationship” with Sanader failed because of the latter’s broken promises. The Museum...
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Balkan Blues

In my last road trip in the Balkans several years ago, I drove from Bosnia to Albania because the other methods of transportation either took too long or cost too much. I didn’t relish the idea of driving in Albania. Still, I managed to survive the reckless traffic of Tirana — only to have someone in a small town in Montenegro take a sharp right from the far left lane directly in front of...
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