In 2019 the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia launched a new fellowship programme for young (post-doc and early career) Bulgarian scholars and Bulgarian academic diaspora.
The programme is pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding which was signed on 8 November 2018 between the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. It aims to promote and strengthen international, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary exchange of people and ideas in academia on the basis of scientific excellence, mutual benefit and complementary support. Please see the Memorandum published in State Gazette, Issue 97, p.44.
In agreement with the Memorandum the host of the programme, the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia announces two calls for:
- Five 9-months fellowships for young Bulgarian scholars affiliated at local universities and institutes, and
- Two 3-months fellowships for Bulgarian researchers abroad.
Cals are announced annually in November on the CAS web-page.
The ideal of meritocracy and equality of opportunity remains the dominant strain of political thought in liberal democracies. However, this ideal needs rethinking in response to the global rise of populism, which has revealed serious social and political alienation among those who are not part of the ‘meritorious’ liberal elite. Political theorists like Michael Sandel have criticised meritocracy on the basis that it stigmatises and discriminates against those who are seen as lacking ‘merit’, such as people without university degrees. I propose to conduct fundamental research that responds to this critique by developing a more inclusive meritocratic ideal based on two interacting concepts of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ merit. The conventional concept of ‘objective’ merit is based on achievements recognised and rewarded by existing institutions. My new dual concept of merit will also include ‘subjective’ merit based on personal development and wellbeing. My project will work through this idea, including its practical ramifications. The Bulgarian Centre of Advanced Studies is an ideal location for undertaking this work, due to its depth and breadth of expertise in humanities and social sciences and because Bulgaria’s geo-political location makes it a crucible for the clash of ideals between meritocracy and populism.
Although small in percentage, until September 9, 1944 in Bulgaria there was an influential layer of large landowners. The so-called chiflikchii owned large farms mainly in Dobrudja, which was returned to the borders of the country with the Craiova Agreement of 1940. In addition to adapting to the change of state borders, this stratum would soon experience a change of regime. If initially the new communist government was relatively tolerant of the big landowners, then at the end of 1947 the regime began a serious attack on them as "kulaks". In my research I will follow the liquidation of large land holdings in the region of Dobrudja, which in terms of historiography has so far remained in the shadow of the general processes of collectivization in Bulgaria.
Care Work, Migration and (Im)Possible Solidarities: The cases of Bulgarian female care workers in Greece and Spain
The present project proposes an analysis of the struggles for rights and against discrimination of migrant female care workers based on the case study of Bulgarian migrants in Spain and Greece. Informed by the literature on migration and decoloniality on the one hand, and the literature on social movements on the other, the project seeks to contribute to a dialogue between theoretical perspectives and geographical contexts, as well as to make a novel empirical contribution. It raises the issue of the unequal geographical distribution of mobilizations and organization of women workers in the care sector under similar problems and conditions, and the need for a more nuanced understanding of the factors that contribute to an organization that targets labour, women and migrant´s rights and those that inhibit it. Through the use of qualitative methodologies, the project aims to collect data that will help to build a comparative overview between Bulgarian migrants in different countries, between mobilised and unorganised women workers and between different generations of Bulgarian migrants in terms of struggles for their rights.
Population Politics and Nation Building: Migrations of Turkish and Muslim Populations from Bulgaria to Turkey (1925–1939)
The project aims to analyse the migrations of Turkish and Muslim communities from Bulgaria to Turkey during the interwar period interpreted through the prism of population politics and state- and nation-building processes. Employing the approaches of entangled histories and transnational history, the study will investigate comparatively how Bulgaria and Turkey developed specific strategies to homogenise the previously demographically heterogeneous territories along ethnic, religious, and cultural lines. The project will trace how migration flows and border crossings were affected by the redefinition of citizenship boundaries, identity categories, acceptance frameworks, and social hierarchies. By examining the historical dynamics of the Turkish and Muslim resettlements, the research will situate population movements and displacements within the larger framework of the two nation states’ policies and practices of ethnic and demographic engineering. The focus is on the construction, negotiation, and transformation of nationhood and the different government strategies towards “desired” and “undesired” nationals, categorised within the frameworks of majority and minorities. The study will further trace the ways in which these categories were instrumentalised in different visions of national integrity.
The object of study is Ferdinand de Saussure’s implicit project for linguistic semiology. We propose a clear delimitation of a notion of semiology, distinguished from the notion of semiotics. The extent of this new notion of semiology would be explored by means of researching the early stages of structural linguistics as attested in Saussure’s writings, both published and manuscript. According to the initial presupposition, the revision of basic tenets of structuralism and semiotics with regards to Saussure’s original project of semiology would provide us with a new set of ideas about how to understand signification and human signifying activity as a whole. As an interpretative prism to this semiological framework, we propose to reconsider the problem of language materiality, since it is precisely the question of materiality that stands out in the latest research on Saussure’s legacy. As a subsequent step, this new semiological understanding, both of natural languages and of other signifying systems, could be applied to the research of literature – understood as an organised signification, – or even to other fields of human activities where signs are involved.
Тransnationals: Consuls and the Making of the Modern Balkans (1787-1908) examines the role of consuls in the creation of new nation-states, the establishment of economic interdependencies, and the rise of new notions of citizenship in the nineteenth-century Balkans. The project aims to bring together insights from history, urban studies, migration studies, law and economics, and the digital humanities to map and analyze the way in which consular networks reconfigured urban spaces in the late Ottoman Empire and the various new nation-states that emerged in Southeastern Europe. It seeks to answer the question of what role consuls played in the making of the modern Balkans at the intersection of state formation, imperialism, and new notions of citizenship.
Beyond Totalitarianism: Mass Internment, Concentration Camps and Forced Labor in Bulgaria in the 20th Century
The project is designed as a longue durée study of extralegal detention in one country asking broader questions about the repressive potential of the modern state. It will provide, for the first time, a thorough account of civilian internment, concentration camps, and forced labor in Bulgaria during the 20th century. The research aims to challenge the basic assumptions of Bulgarian historiography about the nature of these repressive practices and institutions as unique to only totalitarian dictatorships by offering a different perspective on their origins, development, and history in Bulgarian context. Informed by the recent global turn in the study of concentration camps the project will integrate the Bulgarian case into the wider European and global perspective.
The project aims at studying the reception of Freudian psychoanalysis in Bulgaria in the period of 1947-1990, viewed through the optic of the psychoanalytic concepts of ‘repression’ and ‘resistance’ and the dialectic relation between them. The main hypothesis includes identifying those ‘places of repression’, existing at the level of discourse, in which the psychoanalytic ideas are stylized, refuted, denounced and rejected from the position of the official Marxist ideology taken as a framework for the sciences of mental health. Along with that, the hypothesis allows – without assuming – the existence also of ‘places of resistance’ in which the psychoanalytic ideas are integrated into an implicit or disguised form in the discourse of sciences, managing to circumvent ideological censorship. By means of an interdisciplinary methodology the project studies the modalities of relation between real repression and possible resistance both on the discursive level and on the level of the personal history and individual behaviour of certain figures who were involved in the subversive practicing of psychoanalysis in socialist Bulgaria. The final aim is not only to construct the concept of critical reception of psychoanalysis but also to reveal – in the meaning of values and philosophically – those meaning potentials of analysis that have made it become a ‘counter-discourse’ and a form of resistance against every (totalitarian) invasion on freedom and thinking.
The research project aims to explore a hitherto understudied perspective on Christian-Muslim relations in the premodern Ottoman society, namely the discourses on Balkan non-Muslims in Ottoman Muslim narrative sources produced between the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries. It will cover a wide range of partly unpublished texts in the Ottoman Turkish and Persian languages falling according to their genre into the main categories of history, hagiography, geography, and travel accounts. By applying to the relevant accounts an interdisciplinary approach including historical, hermeneutic, text-critical, and codicological methods, the project will situate its findings within a larger sociological framework based on the concept of ‘interpretative communities’. The aim is to trace the sociopolitical implications of Muslim accounts of ‘the other’ as well as to provide a better understanding of how identities functioned and interacted in a premodern imperial setting.
The project explores international institutions that are deliberately designed not to produce any policy output. Certain multilateral agreements and permanent organizations are deprived of capacity for policy development or implementation. Examples include the UN Forum on Forests and the Copenhagen Accord. Such institutions can be an obstacle to cooperation and prevent governance by legitimizing collective inaction. Empty institutions serve two political purposes: they hide the failure of international negotiations and neutralize public calls for genuine policy. Research is based on direct participatory observation of twenty-nine rounds of international environmental negotiations between 1999 and 2015 and interviews with diplomats and policymakers. During the period of the fellowship, I will conduct interviews at ministries in Sofia and finalize a book that documents these diplomatic processes and introduces a new concept to academic scholarship on global governance.