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Fellow Seminar

22 November 2018

Dr. Nikola Venkov will present his research proposal on the topic: "Conflict and Conviviality at the Women's Market" on 22 November 2018 (Thursday) at 16:30h.

Abstract:

In a context of a rising spirit of popular and political disappointment with policies that go under the moniker of multiculturalism (Vertovec 2010) it is thought important to turn scientific attention towards the reality of practices of living together in places of existing great diversity in metropolitan cities of the Global North. The notion of conviviality directs the researcher's focus towards the everyday process of how people live together in mundane encounters, of how they negotiate their sustained differences and how they achieve ‘minimal consensuses', in order to avoid conflict and preserve a state of working sociality (Heil 2014: 317).

Authors note that the bottom-up practice of conviviality is not necessarily dependent on and shaped by the elite political discourses that try to promote diversity, cosmopolitanism, multiculturalism, etc. However, almost all research has so far taken place in Western metropolises, where those discourses are well established. This project will bring to the debate the East-European City, where such discourses have little purchase over the public. I will look at a site where inter-ethnic and inter-class diversity is negotiated from the bottom up despite being thoroughly repudiated by the social and political hegemony. Theoretically, I would like to pair conviviality with a concept that took shape in my own previous work (in my dissertation), ‘politics of urban coexistence'. Both concepts look at the same kind of phenomenon - the everyday negotiation of difference and plurality - but while work on conviviality is in danger of slipping into, as Wise and Velayutham are ready to agree (2014: 425), a post-political perspective, my notion makes politics central.

The fieldwork site on which this study is based is the district around the Women's Market in Sofia, the largest traditional marketplace in the city. It is the only truly diverse locality in the country (rather than segregated) - and it is not much celebrated for that. Despite an ‘anti-diversity hegemony' in Bulgaria, instances of a bottom-up convivial practice, straddling social and ethnic boundaries, grow and persist here. My analysis will be based on 5 years of ethnographic relationship with the fieldwork site (2010-2015) and a collected material comprising of ethnographic notes, recorded semi-structured interviews, visual documentation, historical and media archive.

 

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