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Jesenko Tešan and Joan Davison


This paper examines the source and consequences of permanent liminality in the political-legal administration of the Byzantine Empire. The paper argues ambiguous and incomplete identities of individuals, groups, and society associated with certain authoritarian political arrangements and consequent arrested liminal period(s) contributed to the decline of the Empire. Further, and significantly, the unresolved situation of disaggregated identity, or spirited away demos, persisted in the Ottoman Era and continues to infect contemporary socio-political affairs in regions in the Balkans and other countries of the former Soviet Union which now seek to balance the interests of a nation-state with the diversity of Europe. The paper does not consider the Orthodox Spirit, but rather analyzes the role of pseudo-intellectuals and sophists who derail the democratic and philosophical Hellenist traditions with authoritarian policies and tools. The research compares and links the institutional attempts of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires to manage and manipulate differences and distinctions through mechanisms such as theatricalization and the millets. The argument concludes that these strategies created the basis for the perpetualization of the sick man of Europe to the extent they focused on juggling the distinctions and identities of the empires rather than pursuing the development of the democratic self. Thus, in liminality is revealed and contained undead and viral authoritarian spirits, sometimes manifested in populist or extremist ethnic leaders, whose technologies trick the demos and disrupt the democratic imagination.