Epistemology and ontology clash when it comes to “Eastern Europe.” Clashes of this sort try to escape the categories that are at odds and turn toward terminological solutions. But such a move only aggravates the problem while appearing to trivialize it. The terminological instability has historical causes, and the history is a disputed one. Cities and people have multiple names, boundaries are uncertain, and there is no agreement on a protocol to settle contested issues. This introduction, like the collection of essays that follow, shies away from explaining why this may be the case, for that would draw it into the same maelstrom, and focuses on some of the consequences. It draws attention to the prevalence of a politics of memory that attempts to deploy itself in an environment that seeks to reduce the space of the political and its practices of deliberation by replacing them with the “self-evidently natural laws” of the economic. One consequence of this substitution of the economic for the political is the emergence of “second-handedness,” a condition that may seem to be a contingent property of the region but may be the harbinger of things to come for the rest of the world.
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