Desire as Geopolitics: Reading The Glass Room as Central European Fantasy
Jakub Eberle's article was published by the prestigious academic journal International Political Sociology. It focuses on the affective dimension of the tension between the Central European aspiration for a Western identity and the failure to achieve it.
The concept of Central Europe emerges from the tension between the aspiration for a Western identity and the failure to achieve it. This article analyzes The Glass Room, a novel by the British author Simon Mawer set in Brno, Czech Republic, as an artefact that sheds light on the affective dimension of this tension, as captured in the way the book speaks to the Central European desire for “Westernness.” Adopting a Lacanian perspective, I argue that The Glass Room functions as a geopolitical fantasy, bringing its Czech audiences the promise that the desired Western identity is within reach. However, this promise can never be fulfilled, since the substance of “Westernness” is too elusive to ever be possessed and is always dependent on the recognition of a Western audience. This oscillation between desire and its disappointment leads to the self-defeating politics of superiority/inferiority, which is so often seen in the region. The article makes a broader contribution by showing how desire sustains and reproduces particular conceptions of space and what role pop-culture plays in this process. In this argument, the reproduction of a geopolitical imagination depends on its ability to capture subjects’ desire for a full and stable identity.