The Modernity and Identity project is a two-year programme directed by Prof. Diana Mishkova and supported by the Bulgarian Science Fund.
It stretches over 2008 – 2010 and offers three nine-month research fellowships annually for young Bulgarian researchers from the fields of the humanities and the social sciences. Similar to the Advanced Academia Project , there are no rigorous thematic, disciplinary or other restrictions to the applications, the academic portfolio of the candidates being the prime criterion.
The programme is implemented "hand in hand" with the Regimes of Historicity research project, with the goal of providing international embedment for the Bulgarian scholars.
This study aims to investigate the complexities of the phenomenon of return migration in Bulgaria as experienced and narrated by return migrants from various educational, social, professional and migratory backgrounds. These will serve to question official policy discourses that approach return in the framework of protecting ethnic and cultural homogeneity in the country. The study will focus on the personal accounts of Bulgarian return migrants about the relationship between return expectations and lived integration as well as about their experiences of home and belonging.
The study will aim to avoid limiting return problematic to questions of investment of money and skills accumulated abroad. Such pro-economic approach tends to dominate present scholarship on return migration that is centered on the migration and development paradigm. Instead the study will focus on the return phenomenon per se to investigate the relationship between migratory experiences of returnees and their civic, cultural and ethnic self-identifications. Explored will be return migrants' lived and imagined experiences of home and belonging that are often assumed unitary and homogeneous by the official political discourse. In this respect the relationship between migrants' host and home country experiences will be interrogated to identify modes of continuity or discontinuity and their relationship to migrants' sense of belonging and experiences of home. In particular the study will focus on the subjective perceptions and objective experiences of home as migrants' lived and imagined reality and their bearing on migrants return and consequent adaptation. The study will aim to shed light on the complexities if return migrants identities that are anchored socially and culturally in multiple places of past and present being.
Methods: The study will involve in-depth interviews with return migrants, semi-structured interviews with officials from relevant migration management institutions and discursive analysis of governmental strategy papers, action plans and official reports in the area of migration and return.
There is a striking consensus in the literature on South-Eastern Europe. It is commonly agreed that the region missed the first wave of globalization, which brought growth and prosperity to most of the world at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The Balkans, as this most backward European periphery is also called, failed to make, it is insisted, any significant progress in its social and economic modernization prior WW-II. What I see as the main problem of the current literature on the South-East Europe is its static and sketchy character. Its unspoken corollary is that modernization (not more that partial and phlegmatic indeed) could be achieved only within the frames of authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.
The aim of the proposed research is to cast new light on the moving internal borders of modernisation in the Bulgarian village. On the basis of a unique archival collection of 588 peasant account books, discovered by chance in the National Archive, it proposes an in-depth interdisciplinary investigation of the microeconomics of peasant farming in one of the most densely populated regions of peasant Europe, less than a decade before it was swept up in the maelstrom of collectivization and forced modernization. Peasant account books provide an extraordinarily detailed glimpse into the day to day activities of small peasant farmers in Bulgaria between 1935 and 1945. ‘Measuring' the growth potential of rural Bulgarian we may then speculate on the existing prospects of modernisation avoiding the extremes of the forced collectivisation.
The project "Vehicles of Modernity - Metamorphoses of Identity (International Truck Drivers during the Cold War)" aims to analyse the complex interrelation between identity and modernity during the Cold war, through the lens of one still under-examined group – the Bulgarian International truck drivers. Due to their specific official and non-official activities, the International truck drivers will be considered as mediators between the West and the East during that period. The project will argue that in their capacity of mediators, they contributed to the specific changes in the everyday perception of the interrelated concepts of modernity, identity and the image of the "others".
Outlining the contradiction and the importance of the mediating functions of the international truck drivers during the Cold war, the project will analyse the truckers' specific interpretation of the notions of Europe, the West, the East, democracy, consumption, and technology. Particular attention will be paid to the truckers' multiple identities: professional, social and personal (they were perceived simultaneously as "soldiers" and "ambassadors"; "traders" and "diplomats"; "smugglers" and "professionals").
The project also aims to analyse the impact of the drivers' activities and interpretations on people's imagination, concepts about modernity and their identity at the everyday level. The focus here will be on the ordinary people’s interaction with the truckers and through it with the West, considered as a vehicle for developing new consumption practices and desires. The thereby promoted "western" consumerism will be seen as a prism through which a concept of modernity was constructed, which was competitive as well as complementary to the official one.
I will examine this concept in three main directions: consumption, technology and mobility. The Western goods themselves, technologies and consumerism on the other hand, will be seen as a gradually developed reference system for the valuation of the quality and modernity of ordinary people's lives and a reference point for building a specific identity – tightly connected with both consumerism and modernity.
The research is based on dynamically combined information from different kinds of sources, including archival documents, objects, travelogues and interviews. This approach is adopted in order to create a more nuanced and multi-dimensional picture of the research issues.
Galina's project within the Modernity and Identity programme will investigate the process of (re-)constructing the medical professional and non-professional identities in Bulgaria, under the cultural framework of the Bulgarian modernization processes. Her research will focus on the imagery of folk medicine that was presented in Bulgarian medical press and in the public health legislation from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. The main research goal is to examine the opposition between the medical men's project for a new publicity of expert knowledge, and the wise women's reality of ignorance, superstitions and resistant archetypes of "illness" and "health". This opposition will be outlined in a broad discursive field constructed by sanitary laws and reports, ethnographic works, journalistic programs, articles, and lectures of medical professionals. The project will discuss the criticism of Bulgarian physicians against the indigenous healing practices, with regard to the reorganization of the healthcare market and the populist cultural agenda of Bulgarian institutions after the Liberation (as . will thus try to shed light on the controversial process of transforming the traditional "organic community" constructed around intimately shared symbolic meanings, into a civilian public space of state sanctioned social and expert competences. From the point of view of "multiple modernities" theory the "invention" of this public space is crucial for understanding of different aspects of the "retarded modernization" and westernization, especially in the context of co-existence of diverse and competitive medical environments.
project outlineIt has been claimed that a number of modern political theorists have found in Aristotle "anchors for an alternative or supplement to the set of political and ethical principles that undergirds the values of Western democracies" (John Wallach). Aristotelian ideas, however, have a long and complex career in the history of political thought. Ever since the "rediscovery" of his major works in thirteenth-century Europe, Aristotle served as a powerful instrument in the hands of intellectuals working in the realm of political theory. Most importantly, a number of medieval Aristotelians articulated theories which are particularly curious in the context of modern politics. To a historian of ideas thus it may be tempting to think about pre-modern Aristotelians and their modern counterparts, the "neo-Aristotelians," in comparative perspective. This research project takes on the need of such comparison with special emphasis on some of the leading intellectual figures of the late medieval period, on the one hand, and some criticisms against modern Aristotelians, on the other.
While addressing various issues with regard to the reception of Aristotle's political philosophy, the proposed study will suggest that pre-modern as well as modern Aristotelians fruitfully modified and adapted it to the challenges of two different theoretical contexts: (a) justifying monarchy by demonstrating that a political community could be best represented and therefore ruled by a single ruler, in the case of pre-modern Aristotelians; and (b) emphasising the need of virtue in politics as an amendment to modern liberal theories, in the case of neo-Aristotelians. On the other hand, the study will seek to determine the exact parameters in which such problematic uses of Aristotelian arguments diverted from Aristotle's authentic understanding of politics. Special attention will be paid to his conviction that virtuous monarchy was the best form of political rulership, which can be sharply contrasted to both Aristotelian traditions in question.