The beginning of the 21st century and the contradictory process of globalization have reshaped the relationship between visual culture, art, and social life. Visualization turns out to be more and more the dominant cultural code of the late industrial society. Nowadays one witnesses a new visual wave: in the global world the culture of the public image and the "society of the spectacle" (Guy Debord) are gradually transformed by the new complex structures of the "display", "interface", "billboard", scanned-and-sent images. Along with the home video, the video clip, and the post-MTV culture, along with the expansion of design, lifestyle and fusion cultures, these new visual-informational hybrids have started saturating everyday life. This social change redefines the role of visuality in contemporary society by giving new form to public taste. As main transgressors of dominant rules and limits in the contemporary visual sphere, artists should question this situation by challenging the automated visual habits of the "average citizen". All this is especially true of the East European societies in transition because the public life and tastes in these countries also bear the marks of the communist visual environment - the burden of the totalitarian visual legacy is present in the urban surroundings, architecture, monuments and in the everyday material culture. Groups of visual bureaucrats and post-official artists are still using and misusing the old visual codes in favor of aggressive neo-nationalism and premature anti-globalism. Mass media in these countries, often populist and easily manipulated, circulate poor (and politically incorrect) imagery, split between the same outdated legacy and the newly imported and no less manipulative consumerist visuality. In this unfriendly context, the creative and innovative codes of the contemporary arts (with their specificity - mixing and transgressing systems of values, aggressive breaking of taboos, creation of new objects of desire, ironic quotations and multi-layered playfulness, etc.) are confronting a deficit of interpretation. On the other hand, given the generally poor level of the public`s visual literacy, one can say that the visual arts in these countries suffer a lack of "readability" and therefore cannot achieve a significant public impact. A further unfavorable condition is the lack of communication between the small group of internationally known visual artists in these countries and the critical minds there: one can speak metaphorically about a split between "visual" and "reflexive" elites - the academics and researchers in these countries remain isolated in their own field of closed academic debates with insufficient public impact. The links to cultural journalism in the mass media are either insufficient or non-existent, so journalism remains oriented toward the mass taste and cannot be an ally in achieving a greater public impact of advanced cultural activities. Thus, the potential of these critical elites to influence the cultural policies of the respective country, to be social critics and opinion leaders remains unrealized.
This CAS discussion series (2004-2005) bring together Bulgarian scholars from different disciplinary fields (philosophy, sociology, history, psychology, literary criticism, linguistics, educational studies etc), where the concept of reflection plays crucial and determinative role. By elucidating the role the concept plays in the history and theory of the respective fields, it becomes possible to follow the tracks of its semantic and application relevancy. The aim of the initiative is to supply representatives of the humanities and social sciences with nourishing soil where to compare and distinguish their own perspectives towards the role and meaning of reflection.
The goal of `We, the People` was to excavate, put together and compare various texts, crucial for the national identities of Europe`s `small nations` that were for various reasons left out of the `core` canon of the European political and social intellectual tradition. The conducted research presented a comparative interpretation in a diachronic perspective of two of the most important periods for all European nations – the ‘National Romanticism’ and the ‘Anti-Modernist’ challenge which had emerged during the period between the two World Wars. The project focused on the Nordic, Central, Eastern and Southeast European countries in separate research modules. The first publication, collecting 11 interpretative essays on Southeast Europe by young scholars from Central and Southeast Europe as well as the original historical and political texts translated into English, is expected by the end of 2007. ‘We, the People’ was organised in cooperation with the Hungarian Centre for Advanced Study ‘Collegium Budapest’ and with the support of the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation and the German Federal Foreign Office within the framework of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe... (click on the programme`s title for more.
After the Accession... The Socio-Economic Culture of Eastern Europe in the Enlarged Union: An Asset or a Liability?` was a joint international project carried out by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia and the Institut fur die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM) in Vienna.The research activities of all national teams, which included researchers from 10 different countries and 3 different fields of research were co-ordinated by IWM. The work of the Bulgarian team was supervised, co-ordinated and administered by CAS Sofia. The CAS-hosted team was composed of 10 scholars from the following research fields: economy, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, political science and law.The project focuses on strategic problems of the post-accession period: the cohabitation of `Eastern` and `Western` socio-economic cultures in the enlarged European Union and the likelihood of their convergence. The project has four research objectives. First, to identify the types and estimate the frequency of cultural conflicts in economic and social matters in the enlarged European Union and to contribute to the resolution of those conflicts. Second, to predict the patterns of convergence and the extent of diversity within the `European Social Model`. Third, to map those fields in which the new entrants can contribute to the rejuvenation of socio-economic cultures in the European Union. Fourth, to bring the cultural problem back from populist rhetoric in the socio-economic discourse of Enlargement.The contribution of CAS to the project began with a workshop on `Understanding Socio-Economic Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe-Methodological Challenges`, held at CAS in Sofia on 28-29 April 2002.CAS scholars` research included: in-depth interviews with Western managers working in Bulgaria, Bulgarian entrepreneurs, high-ranking officials and NGO leaders dealing with Bulgaria`s European integration; field research and media analysis. The reporting and discussions on the work-in-progress took place at the regular bi-monthly meetings of the Bulgarian team, held at CAS. Each participant submitted the result of his or her research at the end of the research period. On that basis, the leaders of the individual national teams elaborated a final, encompassing analytical report on the research. The `After the Accession` project`s aim is to help re-assess the procedures of the current round of Eastern Enlargement and, by including Southeast European countries in the research programme, to also enable the European Commission to draw lessons for the next rounds.
The Sofia Academic NEXUS: `How to think about the Balkans: Culture, Region, Identities` is the biggest so far international and interdisciplinary research project of CAS for which the Centre provided the scholarly supervision, the organization of the regular discussions and workshops, the selection, together with the NEXUS senior scholars, of the junior fellows, and the overall co-ordination and control of the quality of research.
The project "Regional Identity Discourses in Central and Southeast Europe, 1775-1945" was initiated and administered by CAS. It was carried out by a core group of 7 junior scholars from different Central European and Balkan countries, working in various research fields, and a wider circle of over 30 contributors. Its aim was to put together an authoritative and representative collection of fundamental texts that have contributed to and/or reflected upon the formation of various narratives of regional identity. The project was administratively supervised by the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, while the Centre for Advanced Study in Sofia was in charge of the scholarly and logistical co-ordination and supervision of the research. The outcomes of the project are published by CEU Press (2006-2011) in the four-volume series "Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Eastern Europe (1770-1945)" (for more details see http://www.idreader.cas.bg/).
The CAS Atelier for Biographical Research is a forum working on a monthly basis and gathering researchers from a broad range of disciplines (history, sociology, ethnology, literary theory, cultural studies) and a variety of institutes (universities, research institutes, museums) to share experience of research which is based on oral and written personal documents (auto/biographies, life stories, memoirs, diaries, etc.). The aim is to map out the field and create a research community through fostering interdisciplinary exchange, discussions on method and theory, comparisons of cases and interpretive approaches.