Book Review: The Politics of Exile

The Politics of Exile
Elizabeth Dauphinée
London: Routledge 2013

There are not many books prescribed by my undergraduate politics course that I would wholeheartedly say “this is a book I could read over and over again.” After my first year as a student my hopes of reading fiction again were crushed by works of Political Realism and Strategy. Arguably, Clausewitz’s “On War” and Morgenthau’s “Politics Amongst Nations” are important works when studying politics and apply to the political everyday; yet, there’s something cold and emotionless about them which turned reading from joy into work. After embracing the change of reading, it came as a surprise to me when I started to enjoy reading again.

This leads me to why I chose to review “The Politics of Exile” by Elizabeth Dauphinée. Dauphinée’s book narrates the life of a politic academic; a researcher of War, and her strange encounters with Stojan Sokolović, a Bosnian Serb. The general vibe of the book is looking how researchers of International Relations don’t actually appreciate or consider those involved. It challenges the parameters of academic work, set up as a novel but full of theory accreditation and query.   It passes up on theories on post-colonial relations, Identity and the boundaries of IR.

“I built my career on the life of a man called Stojan Sokolovič. And I would like to explain myself to him. I would like to ask him for forgive me before I leave this life, but I don’t know how to begin.” (p.1)

We are introduced to an academic researcher, engrossed in her work, sleeping in her office with her whole life revolving around her academic work on former Yugoslavia. Entwined in the main story line are Stojan Sokolovič experiences with the Bosnian war and descriptions of Bosnian families on the brink of war, together with his understanding of the atrocities and events that passed. Dauphinée’s work is more than a book about the Bosnian War. The conflict seems to continue between our protagonist and Sokolovič, the two sides of academia and reality. A personal favorite quote in relation to this:

“You’re building your whole career on what I lost, and you never came to even ask me what it was like.” (p.127)

Being written as a novel, Dauphinée’s work lulls you into a sense of security that renders the work as fiction. The harsh reality of the book is that it is not fiction, leaving the reader haunted a few days after closing the back cover. The ease of relating to this hit me quite hard, as I had plans of perusing political study especially in the sphere of modern and ongoing conflicts. To say this book is life changing is probably accurate as it led me to think of the bigger picture and change my desire of pursuing politics to journalism and media. In an attempt to fulfill the idea that we research the wars but don’t bother to ask those who were there.

 


 

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