Macedonia allows foreign scholars to distort the history - Why is Keith Brown falsifying facts?

  
Maria Pandevska is a professor at the “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” Unversity at the Institute of National History. She is the current Head of the Department of the History of the Macedonian Revival and National-liberation Movement in the 19th and 20th Century at the Institute. Her research interest is Balkan political history and her works (books and articles) are published in Macedonian, as well as in English.
 
 
Momirovski: This year the Institute of National History (INI), an integral part of the “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” University (UKIM) in Skopje is celebrating its 65-year anniversary, an occasion which was marked with two events: a promotion of a publication which shows the history of this Macedonian academic research institution, and an international conference: THE BALKANS: PEOPLE, WARS, AND PEACE which took place on the 4th and 5th November. We, the media, have documented these events, but this interview and your writings will stand apart from the celebratory mood?
 
Pandevska: Yes, this is true. Here I will speak more about the difficulties through which the Macedonian historiography is going through, rather that its success.
 
Momirovski: How did you in fact get the idea to write these texts?
 
Pandevska: I have had the idea to write an academic text about the Macedonian historiography for a while now, and because of that I slowly gathered materials from different authors who wrote on the topic. I began with our critics – foreign scholars, in order to see which angle they had towards our historiography. During my research I found quotes in the texts of German scholars Ulf Brunnbauer and Stefan Troebst which gave a completely distorted image of the Institute of National History. What was in common for both texts was that the quotes were from another author – American anthropologist Keith Brown. From there, I continued my research and got to his articles in which through lies, half-truths and insinuations Keith Brown distorts the work of the Institute of National History, in front of the wider academic community. That was when I decided to write these two texts, titled: Historian versus an Anthropologist: the facts and the “hear-say”, part one: Virtual Debate; and part two: Audiatur et altera pars (or from Latin: “Let the other side be heard as well”).
 
 
Momirovski: Which ones of Keith Brown’s article are the issue in fact?
 
Pandevska: One of them is entitled “A Rising to Count On: Ilinden Between Politics and History in PostYugoslav Macedonia” , which was first published in the volume edited by V. Roudometof, The Macedonian Question: Culture, Historiography, Politics. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2000, pp.143-172. It was translated into Macedonian in 2003. The other one I found while checking the facts of the first article. This one is called “Would the Real Nationalists Please Step Forward (Destructive Narration in Macedonia)”, and was published in the volume edited by H. De Soto and N. Dudwick, Fieldwork Dilemmas: Anthropologists in Postsocialist States.Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 2000, pp. 31-48.
 
Momirovski: But these articles have been published for some time now. Does this have any significance?
 
Pandevska: Yes. I agree that аt first, one could think a debate like this is obsolete and meaningless. However, during this past decade its dissemination, mostly in the western academic circles, has led to frequent quotation of the articles, which thus has created a mainly negative attitude towards the historiography and historians from the Republic of Macedonia. This is especially the case for Brown’s once host institution in Skopje – i.e. the Institute of National History (INI). Therefore, the time distance from the articles’ publication and their undeniable academic influence confirms how successfully they have been (mis)used. So, these articles should not be considered as outdated, since they, as well as many other of his texts (which have almost newspaper exclusivist headlines), are considered and used as basic reading about Macedonia and the Macedonian historiography by many western scholars.
 
 
Momirovski: Why then don’t you begin an actual debate with this American anthropologist?
 
Pandevska: The inability to conduct a real discussion on this issue is due to the fact that the American anthropologist Keith Brown has become an academic “heavyweight” given his affiliation with very influential institutions which are mainly stationed in the USA such as universities, publishing houses, generous grants from various fundations, as well as well-established connections and networks built throughout his career development in the UK and USA. His and my objective (not subjective) possibilities are incomparable; in other words, we are not equals (in academic terms). I am a historian who comes from a small and underdeveloped Balkan state (which has been coping with transition and post-conflict reforms for two decades already); I have no easy access to rich foundations and even the institution in which I work has quite modest financial possibilities to encourage equivalent travels and contacts with foreign universities, publishing houses, etc. The research grants are practically nonexistent, while the solvency of the Macedonian historian (if s/he decides to stay out of the daily politics) is below the average of a bus driver’s income in any developed country. The anthropologist Keith Brown is quite aware of the advantages and academic influence that he has acquired through the institutions and networks of which he has been a member. Obviously he can easily afford frequent visits to the Republic of Macedonia every now and then, and afterwards he presents his subjective perceptions and biased conclusions in a form of results of an alleged academic hard work.
 
Momirovski: Couldn’t you conduct a direct debate during one of his visits here, instead of a virtual one like this?
 
Pandevska: A debate on this matter, conducted in the Republic Macedonia would have no effect whatsoever. I claim this from my personal experience. Namely, Keith Brown publicly admitted that he had not been aware of some of the most important historical sources at the time he had been working on his book. During that debate I exposed the facts that practically annulled many of his claims (http://www.gem.org.mk/vesti/755-promocija-na-knigata-minatoto-pod-prasanje-moderna-makedonija-ineizvesnostite-na-nacijata last entered 16 January 2012. Now in my personal possession, available upon request.). And that was it. He admitted to have made mistakes but he did not even mention any intention of correcting them or revising his writings. Hence, these mistakes will continue to be used as accurate data by anyone who reads his book (Keith Brown ,The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation. Princeton, 2003).
 
Momirovski: During our contact, you insisted that this interview and your texts be published in English.
 
Pandevska: Yes, that is why I was glad to find out that the newspaper Republika online has its English version. The reason for this was the already mentioned public debate that was conducted only in Macedonian language. Therefore its audience and reach was rather limited, so Keith Brown has no obligation, except for the moral one, to revise its writings in order to eliminate omissions and misinterpretation along the critical remarks he heard. If my texts are published in a widely spoken language, such as English, they might reach a broader academic audience.
 
Momirovski: While we were arranging this interview and the publishing of your texts you told me that you were astonished by how such lies and half-truths could have been presented as scholarly findings.
 
Pandevska: True. And you laconically answered me that propaganda is always based on lies and half-truths.