The "Regimes of Historicity" project has undertaken a comparative analysis of the various ideological traditions dealing with the connection between modernity and historicity, modernity and temporality, in three "small-culture" European regions: East-Central, Southeastern, and Northern Europe. It has aimed to reconstruct the ways in which different "temporalities" and time horizons produced alternative (national) representations of the past. At the same time, by choosing ideologies as a vantage point it has investigated visions of past and future, of continuity and discontinuity in a wide spectrum of twentieth century social and political thinking about modernity and identity. How the ever-growing distance between experience and expectation shaped political discourse and action; how the "politics of time" framed political languages in our three historical regions? Above all research has been focused on the ways these ideological/political traditions and languages of identity were shaped and interpreted by the different branches of the humanities and the newly formed social sciences. This has made it possible to reconsider the usual metaphors rooted in temporal dimensions that are used for noncore Western cultures, such as belatedness, asynchrony, backwardness, catching-up, etc.
Methodology: By reconstructing the patterns of historicity and temporal visions that historical actors held of their own contexts we sought to challenge the centre-periphery backwardness narrative and render a more balanced picture of historical difference. Furthermore, comparing the various peripheries to each other could give us a certain insight into the issue of legacies – into the way tradition is framed in a Protestant, Orthodox or Muslim context; or in the long-term impact of competing post-imperial and nation-state models of framing the past. We thus hope to have developed a vision of political modernity capable to substantiate the notion of multiple modernities and thus open up the discussion of how imported models and local traditions are related to each other.
Project organization: The two-year research is being accomplished in four closely interrelated components that allow for the deeper understanding of the problems in focus through a process of intensive interaction and "negotiations" between national traditions: Senior Fellowship Programme, Junior Fellowship Programme, Extended Colloquia and Guest-Scholar Programme. The Regimes of Historicity Fellows work on their individual case studies and come together for joint working sessions, colloquia and conferences to discuss each others' findings in the multidisciplinary and international environment provided by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia. The core group of 16 junior scholars was selected following an open Call for Applications and a rigorous selection procedure carried out by the international Academic Council of CAS. The team of Senior researchers include Prof. Diana Mishkova (project convener), Prof. Antonis Liakos , Prof. Bo Stråth and Assoc. Prof. Balázs Trencsényi .
The project is supported by the Volkswagen Foundation, Germany, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Germany and the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, Sweden.
Research Project Description and Contribution to CAS ROH Project
Over the last two decades, the notion of the ‘recent past' as an object of historical inquiry has gained particular attention among historians and has posed in new light the issue of discipline's borders, scope, and methods. Guided by several important historical works on this issue, by explorations on the memory resource of history writings, and by new studies on cultural memory and collective forgetting, the pertinence of this notion was especially well outlined after the fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the new trajectories of interpreting the past that it triggered. Taken up by a wave of research literature on the totalitarian periods and the post-socialist transitions in Eastern Europe, revisiting of the immediate historical experience clearly outlined the role of witness accounts in the historiographic emplotment of the recent period. Exercising a strong impact on the professional history writing about the decades before 1989, they triggered also a tendency to essentialise the ‘recent past' by reducing it solely to the socialist times. Yet, despite its systematic discussion as a concept in historical writing mainly in the last two decades, the notion of the ‘recent past' has been an object of elaboration in many previous periods and has played an active role in the formation of national myths and heroes, ideological narratives and imagined historical destinies. Thus, the exploration of the notion in contexts stretching further back than its regular positioning by contemporary scholarship may prove an efficient step in understanding different ‘regimes of historicity' in a comparative perspective.
The goal of the current project is to investigate the construction and conceptualization of the ‘recent past' in three different decades of Bulgarian history from the perspective of how witness testimonies and oral accounts have been utilised and transmitted by the emerging new historiographic discourses. The project will carry out a comparative exploration on the interaction between oral accounts and history writing in the first decades following three major events in modern Bulgarian history: the national liberation, the establishment of socialism in 1945, and the end of the communist regime in 1989. Focusing on the problem of memoirs' integration in the historiographic discourse, the project will address core issues related to the emergence of history writing after periods of major political overturns and the elaboration of notions about the ‘recent past' within compressed time limits. The major questions that the project would ask are: 1. How do official historiographic discourses utilise oral history accounts to construct its legitimacy and voice of authenticity? 2. How was this appropriation related to the symbolic construction of the ‘recent past'? 3. How do memoir narratives and witness accounts engender and influence the crystallisation of normative representations of history.
Exploring comparatively the interaction between witness accounts and historiographic discourse in three distinctive periods of Bulgarian history, the project will problematise thus the emergence of new ‘regimes of historicity' as closely dependent on the input of witness testimonies in conceptualising recent historical experiences.
For the achievement of its goals, the project will rely on a wide range of sources and materials: witness accounts, life histories, published memoirs, biographies and autobiographies. Relying on typologically diverse forms and genres of memoir accounts, the project will lay the emphasis upon the interconnection between personal, collective, and professional memories and their characteristic involvement in the realm of official historiography, as well as on their role for the crystallisations of collective memory around a selection of normative events and interpretations. The project does not aim to convey a message about a uniform practice of history writing after major political overturns, but rather, uncover the specificities in approaching the ‘recent past', which, when viewed comparatively, can reveal significant differences in the constructions of ‘transformed identities', especially after major points in historiographic reorientation.
Taking impetus from the idea of collective memory as a major component in the historiographic conceptualisation of the ‘recent past' (and - broadly, following Ricoeur, as a key resource for historical memory), the project will pay attention to narrative forms that are frequently discredited as a historical source and highlight historians' uses of such sources in times past and times present. The project proposed tries to overcome the traditional ‘oral history accounts'/ ‘representations' divide and to see the active interaction between the two in periods after critical points of rupture. A thorough analysis of the memoir elements incorporated in the national historiographic discourse will permit approaching the issue of ‘transformed historical identities' in a novel way, as new ‘regimes of historicity' closely dependent on the shifting notion of the ‘recent past', and also as rooted in what Jack Goody calls the ‘interface between the oral and the written'. To the extent that such recourse of studying historical writing is a relatively unexplored field for Bulgarian scholarship, the project aspires to fill a gap in the existing scholarly endeavors around the ‘contemporary history' and ‘modern identities' in Bulgaria.
Research Project Description and Contribution to CAS ROH Project
The aim of my study is to re-evaluate what has been considered the modern breakthrough in Swedish historiography, namely the emergence of a group of historians centred round the brothers Lauritz and Curt Weibull in the first half of the twentieth century. The name Weibull has been rarely mentioned without reference to source criticism, whereby the prominence of source criticism as a basis for disciplinary identity-building in the Swedish historical profession has been acknowledged as internationally unique. Source criticism was not only the core method of the Swedish historian, it also happened to be a highly sophisticated means of exposing political propaganda. Hence, the historian could contribute to a free and open society.
Although this view of the Weibullian heritage has been nuanced, some essential characteristics are still missing. The Weibull historians were no crude proponents of methodical technique or unartistic collectors of facts. Their writing was certainly no effortless or ‘objective' reports from the archives or the seminar-room, in fact it was regarded by themselves as the essential part of the professional historians' activity. Certainly, one of their most striking features is the stylistic capabilities they put to use, their conscious and very active grasp of disposition and line of argument. Though seldom shaping their writing as traditional, epic historical narrative, and therefore, with few exceptions, never reaching wide audiences with their writings, there is always a conscious plot at work, an author's personality directing history, with quirks of subtle irony and deliberate clues: all adding rhetorical momentum to the final and often subversive conclusion. The Weibull historians had a distinct style when writing history.
There is good reason to believe that this aspect of the Weibullian history-writing has been left out or downplayed. A comparison of style could prove devastating to the ideal of scholarly progress; the view of twentieth-century academic professionalism just might seem less of a fulfilment from this perspective.
The shift in perspective towards style would imply a new frame of reference to this field. To what extent could weibullianism be described as a modernist movement instead of modern school? The Weibullians have been referred to as a school but have also been closely connected to a fundamental myth of the avant-garde, as ‘destroyer' of tradition. In the Weibullians' case this destruction consisted of the banishing of nineteenth-century century bourgeois morality from historical interpretation.
An anomaly can be discerned in previous research about the Weibullians. The will to summon them as a part of the grand narrative of modern democratic progress does not explain why many of their characteristics seem challenging or even rebelling against such a narrative. Though the Weibullians were regarded as radicals, their view of history was always too extreme and dystopic to be adopted by political interests in Sweden. Even the main radical party, the Social democrats, has been acknowledged to have been unable to make use of their history, but instead aligned themselves with the more nationalist and conservative views that the Weibullians held in contempt. The view of the Weibullians as a modernist movement could possibly solve this anomaly.
Modernist ideologies range all across the political spectrum. The political views held by modernists often seem more or less incidental. In fact, modernism can be seen as a deliberate loss of coherence in the modern personality. What has been seen as intellectual limitations, the anthropological reductionism of the Weibullian historical interpretations could perhaps be labelled a modernist dehumanisation of history (to reinterpret Ortega y Gasset, 1948).
This also constitutes a major comparative possibility of this study. The avant-garde identities of modernist art, had a notoriously ambiguous temporal character. As these identities were often based in a highly individualistic revolt against modernity, they could, from modernity´s perspective just as well take the form of radical backwardness (primitivism in painting), as well as progressiveness. There is no reason that the view of modernist culture should be limited to the literary and artistic movements of mid-western Europe. The ambiguous temporal identity at the heart of modernism made it a puzzling and unpredictable phenomenon. This makes comparison challenging, but also very interesting to pursue.
Research Project Description and Contribution to CAS ROH Project
My project aims to explore the specific counter-modern attitudes in the Bulgarian society of the 1960s, generated and reflected in the literary fiction of the period. I am interested in the social and cultural foundations of the great ideological shift, dividing the cultural landscape of the ‘early' (or Stalinist) communist regime from what was called ‘developed socialism' after 1971. The focus of my research is the shift from communist progressivism in Bulgaria toward a backward looking cultural conservatism resembling the conservative, autochthonic ideologies of the pre-World War Two period, as exemplified by the new, post-1950s generation of writers responding to the political and ideological power change by either daring dissent or willful submission. At a cultural level, the post-1950s break-up with the tradition of formal literary technique frequently went hand in hand with a reactionary back-lack of attitudes and figurative strategies, reminiscent of what used to be part of the nationalistic discursive armory of the so-called ‘reactionary', ‘fascist' writers and intellectuals of the 1930s. Would there not be a contradiction between the term ‘modernity' as employed by the Communist regime and the perceived anti-modernity of Communism as the absolute ‘Other' to the modernisation process in ‘the West' as has been suggested recently?
In my research, I propose to discuss the social and cultural structure of Communism as a different modernity, i.e., as another, diverse response to the inherent problematic of modernity. I believe that if we consider the up-rooting of the individual from the predestined social order and the transformation of human identity from what used to be ‘given' into a ‘task' (Bauman) as key elements of the modernisation process, we will be able to identify these elements in the post-1945 Bulgarian society ‘at work', too. While the form of modernisation imposed on the Bulgarian society from the 1960s onwards might be labeled ‘distorted', its nevertheless modernising effect on the social structure and personal identities is hard to deny. The consequent spread of individualism, triggered by ‘the new way of living' and detached from what had been viewed as traditional constraints, soon turned into a fundamental threat to the Communist ideology and power structure. Anti-intellectualism and anti-consumerism, giving birth to new, anti-individualistic feelings, became the paradoxical, intentional or intuitive, response to the new challenge. The sentiments of the 1960s, however, re-echoed earlier, inter-war clusters of similar intellectual conservatism, ‘nativism', and nationalism of the Bulgarian intelligentsia. These similarities seem to be structural, inherent to the fundamental mechanism of modernisation and the responses it generates.
My project focuses on the ways those counter-modern, anti-individualistic attitudes were adopted in the two seemingly contrasting historical periods, and how the appropriation of nationalism by the authoritarian regimes before and after the Second World War II blurred the ‘left-right' political classification. As ‘nationalism' cannot be viewed as a constant, ahistoric entity, my study is going to address its various effects in different social fields and discursive frameworks that constitute a certain ‘epoch'.
My research adopts a theory of modernity developed by Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and especially Zygmunt Bauman, which links modern identity to be an ‘disembedded' character frantically searching for ‘re-embeddedment'. I will make the point that these ‘beds', harboring the individual, are constructs, sustained by institutional discourses and artistic activities. Hence, my study attempts to explore the construction of such new ‘bed' for the uprooted individual of the 1960s - a ‘bed' suggestive of older, pre-Communist national ideology, yet not reducible to it. I will hypothesise that new ‘bed', i.e., desire for belonging, was oriented towards the nebulous realm of a ‘nationhood'. It was a process that I believe, started in the 1960s and continues into the present; a process that partly accounts for the atomised state of society after the Changes in 1989. This artificially-construed ‘bed' of Bulgarianness simultaneously replaces, blocks or hinders the establishment of smaller, partial group identities.
My research material will be derived from authors like Nikolay Haitov, Anton Donchev, Vasil Popov, Yordan Radichkov, and Yordan Vulchev, who were particularly productive in the 1960s and whose positive reception in Bulgarian culture before and after the 1989 watershed is still distinctly related to notions of ‘modern form' and political and ideological dispassionateness. My study focuses on how the literary fiction of the 1960s with its figurative and narrative strategies invests value in the second element in oppositions, i.e. modern - traditional, foreign - ‘ours', artificial - organic, reflexive - irreflexive, history - myth. My intention is not to add another learned interpretation of these works or ‘demystify' them as vehicles of ideological schemes and stereotypes. Instead, I will examine how their meaning-producing mechanisms modify the framework of experience, conditioning modern identity, and how their implicit ideological content and identity-building strategies were brought into a broader network of social communication and eventually socialised.
Project Description and Contribution to CAS ROH Project
The ideological narratives marking and largely directing the currents of nineteenth and twentieth-century history in Serbia and Yugoslavia still await their thematisation in the context of the realities they tried to create or, at least, influence. Within this framework, the notion of the ‘peasant' falls among some of the most noticeable ideological narratives, represented by numerous variations of what has been regarded a peasantist ideology (peasantism). As stated by Doreen Warrenir decades ago, ‘round "the peasant" in Eastern Europe there is an accretion of legend. There has been the romantic approach, part literary, part political, for which he is an absolute social value, a bulwark against social change". (Warriner, 1959)
Unlike agrarianism, which utilises a more economic-oriented approach, peasantism is a largely socio-cultural and anthropological notion. Peasantism implies a specific system of values, believes, and norms which addresses the peasantry less as an economic class or social stratum, rather than as a symbol embodying certain fundamental values of crucial importance for the group. Hence, interwar peasantism was primarily a tool of the identity-narrative.
As the peasantry was an important political force in a liberal electoral system, the peasants were frequently flatteringly likened to the ‘real' creators of the Serbian state. Yet, this loud peasantism of the intellectual ‘urban thinkers' went hand in hand with a general neglect of most existential needs of the peasantry. Deeply involved in politics, ‘urban thinkers' acted as the pillars of the regimes rather than as independent critics.
My research focuses on the intellectual constructs related to the peasantry in the first half of the twentieth century, their ideological operationalisation, and their symbolic transfer from a Serbian towards a Yugoslav, and eventually back to a narrow Serbian paradigm during the Second World War. I will argue that the same ideological content - the glorification of the peasantry - was politically instrumentalised as the legitimising pattern for the political and social programmes, shifting from democratic to totalitarian, from liberal to conservative, from modern to patriarchal. The peasantry became related to the identity of the nation, and it is my aim to re-create the interwar historians and anthropologists' role in this process.
My objective is to be achieved by the method of comparison, in two main ways: 1) by comparing one or more phenomena in one society or culture diachronically, or 2) by comparing one or more phenomena in two or more societies or cultures synchronically and/or diachronically. Here I will resort to a diachronic comparison of the peasantist ideology in three turning points in the Serbian and Yugoslav history - the first being the end of nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries (the period of the Radical Party - the main exponent of peasantism as a political ideology), 1918 (the year when the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was created and peasantism was used to serve the Serbian cause), and the Second-Word-War period, including 1945 (when the ideological narrative of peasantism was first appropriated by the extreme political right, and later included into the new, post-war ideological paradigm.
My research aims to utilise the achievements of those historiographical traditions dealing with continuity in history. Since continuity presupposes the existence of certain structures, my task is to investigate the conditions under which those structures survived and/or changed. I will adopt the so-called Wehler's model of ‘defensive modernisation' (Wehler, 1989) to explain how structures can change in order to preserve the continuity of the unchangeable substance.
My study also deals with the relation between mentality and ideology. The persistence of close ideological patterns in a course of the twentieth century raises the question of any possible correlation between a long lasting system of values (mentality) and a specific type of ideology, which includes collectivism, leader cult, egalitarianism, and antiurbanism.
My work is supposed to contribute to revealing and explaining one of the most relevant traditions in Serbian intellectual history, hoping also to provide relevant material for further investigations. The research will address the specific receptions and modifications of the values and institutions of modern western civilisation in Serbia and Yugoslavia during the first half of the twentieth century. Dealing with the problem of national identity and modernisation, it hopes to provide relevant data for a comparative analysis of the problem in a wider, Balkan and European context. My research also aspires to test the relevance of some historiographical traditions regarding the problem of nation-building in Serbia and interwar Yugoslavia, and thus possibly suggest some modifications to currently existing methodological paradigms.
My Regimes of Historicity project will explore a number of themes that led to the refashioning of the ethnic and national identities of Moldavian Roman Catholics, the so-called Csangos, during the late 1930s and early 40s. This refashioning was advanced primarily through the historiography of the period, first by Hungarian historians and ethnographers who ventured into the Csango lands and later by Romanian historians and Catholic priests. I will, furthermore, re-examine the Moldavian Csangos in the context of Romanian and Hungarian population policies, which emerged during the interwar period and were implemented during the Second World War. Finally, I will look at the rise of clericalism in Moldavia and the role of the Csango clergy in nationalizing the debate on the ethnic origins of the Csangos.
The Csangos provide an important case study for several reasons: they were considered not only an ethno-linguistic minority (Hungarian) but also a religious minority (Roman Catholic); they had played no active role in either the Hungarian or Romanian national movements; they were eventually targeted for expatriation to Hungary; moreover, they had an active clerical intelligentsia with support from the Vatican; and yet their homeland had always been in Moldavia proper, which until the early twentieth century had been a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional territory of the Romanian Kingdom. By the 1940s, however, many Romanian policymakers viewed the Csangos as a religious, ethnic, and linguistic anomaly in the very heart of the nation. By contrast, many in the Hungarian government viewed the Csangos as an ethnically pure community of Magyars who could be used to re-colonize the Hungarian state.
I intend, moreover, to look at the historical narratives of the Csangos that were constructed by the Csango clergy, and will examine the relationship of this community's past to its present experience in the early 1940s, and the ‘horizons of expectations' they held for their future as refashioned ethnic Romanians. This represents an enormous shift in the community's understanding and representation of itself through time: hitherto, the historical representation of the community was situated squarely within ecclesiastical history. However, the interwar period radically changed the context in which even small, isolated communities such as the Csangos were forced to re-evaluate and ‘re-represent' their historical connection to Romania's past, its present, and its future. Specifically, they were forced to demonstrate their compatibility with the new, national narratives of the dominant ethnic majority and the state. For Greater Romania was a new and highly ethnicised state and nation, with little room for incompatible ethnic or confessional others. However, this was not just a discursive battle. Policies such as population transfers, nationality registers, and racial laws sought literally to reconfigure the state along ethnic lines.
It is in this context that the Csangos underwent a process of national induction, the aim of which was to demonstrate that their historical experience and ethno-national identity were congruent with that of the dominant ethnic nation, Romania. In order to secure a place within the new nation and to preserve themselves in their homeland, the Roman Catholic clergy amongst the Csangos constructed a new, nationalized past of the community, one that could be merged into the meta-narrative of the Romanian nation. This was a relevant history - a Romanian history - that could anchor them in the present, thereby preventing their deportation to Hungary and restoring their full civic rights as ethnic Romanian nationals.
Research Project Description
The purpose of the proposed research is to explore the role of the state in conjunction with models of collective action as practiced through the organisation of cooperative movements in the inter-war period. Representing a form of corporate organisation at the intersection between the economy, society and politics, cooperatives provide for an ideal laboratory to ‘revisit' the notion of the state as the institutionalisation of a complex and dynamic power nexus. The project thus wishes in the first place to contribute to modernisation debates on Southeast and Central Europe by historicising models and practices of social organisation and economic activity. In the second, it aspires to readdress a European phenomenon and evaluate the particularity or universality of its adaptation in the specific contexts of Southeast and Central Europe from a comparative perspective. Finally, due to post-1989 developments, scholarly attention has focused overwhelmingly on the Communist period, ignoring in a certain way its prehistory. The current work wishes to bridge this historical gap by re-examining the configuration of state and society relations in the dramatic and ideologically loaded inter-war period.
The research is based on a comparative analytical framework, taking the case of inter-war Bulgaria as its pilot study with the intention to include the case of the first Czechoslovak Republic as a contrasting case study. Methodologically, it attempts to build a link between social, cultural and economic history by embedding the emergence and organisation of collective action in its multiple, inter-related contexts.