Seeing Like a Princely State: Protectorates in Central and South Asia at the Nexus of Early Modern Court and Modern Nation-State
Beginning in the eighteenth century (South Asia) and nineteenth century (Central Asia), an age of city-states gave way to an age of imperialism, which brought with it a new political form: the protectorate, a semi-colonial form of government characterized by indirect imperial rule. Local dynasts were left ostensibly in charge of their domain, but were also answerable to colonial authorities. As indirectly ruled territories of the British and Russian empires respectively, Hyderabad and Bukhara provide something of a natural experiment: structurally similar political entities enmeshed in a single culture of Perso-Islamic documentation. This project is thus at once comparative and transregional. How was the role of Islamic scholars transformed under indirect colonial rule? And how did semi-colonial status contribute to the development of characteristics that we associate with the modern state? Having already conducted important archival work in Russia, Uzbekistan, and India, this fellowship would provide a critical opportunity to begin drafting the book manuscript.
The Legend of Troy in the Middle Ages: Imagining Migration and Resilience
For centuries Troy and its tragic heroes served as exempla of audacious aggression, spectacular reversals of fortune, and migration as a regenerative force in history. In places as diverse as Madrid and Moscow, Britain and Bulgaria a fascination with Troy and its resilient refugees captured the imagination of medieval patrons. Ultimately, the story of Troy after antiquity foregrounds forced migration and cultural confrontations as cornerstones of the global historical process. Remarkably no comparative, cross-cultural study of medieval visual representations of Troy currently exists. Using unpublished and published illustrated manuscripts I am pursuing a new, interdisciplinary book project which focuses on intellectual and visual constructions of Troy in the medieval imagination. This project engages with such subjects as migration, imagined origins, usable pasts, trauma, gender tropes, and visualizations of violence. This study moves well beyond the familiar Troy stereotypes such as the Trojan horse or Helen as the possessor of a ‘face that launched a thousand ships.’ This book is the first comparative, cross-cultural exploration of this subject across western medieval and eastern Christian cultural communities. I am applying for the Advanced Academia Fellowship in order to evaluate one of the most famous Bulgarian medieval manuscripts in comparative perspective. The Vatican Manasses manuscript (Vat. Slav. 2), which was produced for Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria in the mid-fourteenth century, features a fascinating visual adaptation devoted to Troy.
Mirjam's particular interest to explore here in Sofia, lies in Public Swimming Pools and Baths as places where people meet, where architecture tells us about the past and the present, and where the movements of the body and the behaviours tell us about the respective body cultures and (non)comfort zones. This is the starting point for her to investigate through swimming pools the importance of water, communities and rituals in an urban environment. For this, she wishes to dive into abandoned pools, still open ones, as well as into archives, and make and find images there to work with.
Between Repression and Resistance: the Critical Reception of Psychoanalysis in Bulgaria (1947-1990)
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.
Imagining One’s Own Infidel: Ottoman Muslim Accounts of Balkan Non-Muslims, 15th–17th Century
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.
Embracing Modernism: Soviet Ukrainian Literature and Russian Modernist Literary Theory (1920s – the beginning of 1930s)
The project reconstructs the history of the literary theory and criticism in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s and early 1930s in its close connection with the theoretical achievements of Russian formalism. The aim of the research is to demonstrate how the project of radical “modernization” of Ukrainian literature with the help of literary technique was used for the construction of the new national identity in the 1920s. The project deepens our understanding of political, cultural and intellectual history of Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s. On that basis, the cultural-historical and ideological context of the history of Ukrainian literary criticism and literature of the late 19th – first decades of the 20th century is consistently reconstructed. It offers a conceptually new reading of the literary and theoretical material of the 1920s. The success of this project will set a new benchmark in the historical narrative about modern and contemporary Ukraine. The project is based on the unique Ukrainian and Russian archival materials from the 1920s–1930s which are introduced into scientific circulation for the first time.
Empty Institutions in World Politics
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.
Architects and Heritage Demolition in Late Socialism and After: Politics of History versus Politics of Profession
This project investigates how architects responded to politically dictated demolition of architectural heritage in Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s largest cities, in two periods: late socialism when the relics of the ‘bourgeois-monarchic era’ were still subjected to ‘socialist reconstruction’, and post-1989 transition when socialist landmarks became targets of ‘decommunization’. At the focus of my study is a dual politicization of architectural heritage: obliteration triggered by politics of history, and expert advocacy for preservation. I analyze the latter through the lens of politics of profession, i.e. as part of a coherent vision of both a harmonious city and the architect’s role in its production. My working hypothesis is that architectural heritage was a stake in architects’ quest for reclaiming expert agency before and after 1989, tackled in conjunction with larger professional themes and urban problems: issues of authorship and collegial solidarity; problems of environmental and social deterioration; questions of cultural identity and historical value. The project methodology is discourse analysis of primary sources: (1) stenographic records of discussions within architects’ organizations, specialized architectural journals and architects’ publications in mass media; (2) state decrees and programs related to urban (re)planning; (3) changing legal definitions and conservation procedures concerning material heritage and cultural monuments.
The Diasporic Experience (Re)Considered: Idioms of Belonging and Transborder Ethnic Kinship within Crimean Tatars in Bulgaria
The current project proposal aims to reconsider, both theoretically and empirically, the concept of the ‘diaspora’ through investigating how it functions in the case of the present-day Crimean Tatar community in Bulgaria. A special aim of the study is to answer the question, to what extent the sense of transborder ethnic kinship with ‘other’ Tatars from abroad (mainly Romania) defines Tatar identity among locals. It is of utmost importance to outline the symbolic boundaries of these ‘diasporic’ representations reproduced by the community, e.g. investigating cases where some Tatar ethnic groups (Volga, Siberian, Astrakhan, etc.) are perceived as ‘others’, ‘alien’ and thus not included within the domain of ‘our’ ‘Crimean’ Tatars. Recent research has shown that many scholars in the field have so far failed to address the various contradictions inherent in the ‘diaspora’ concept, usually approaching the term in an objectivist, static and even essentialist manner. This situation results in considerable analytical gaps within the field of the so-called diaspora studies. Therefore, for the purpose of the project, an updated, nuanced and context-sensitive understanding of the ‘diaspora’ is strongly needed. Following some of the latest achievements in social sciences, in theoretical terms, the current project will be based on a non-objectivist, situational, cognitive understanding of concepts such as ‘identity’, ‘ethnicity’, ‘nationalism’, etc. Methodologically, the proposal will integrate a flexible interdisciplinary approach using some relevant observations from various academic fields (history, sociology, social anthropology) and will rely upon extensive desk work and field research.
Contested Heritage: Contextualizing Difficult Pasts
Cultural heritage is generally accepted as a universal good. It is key for the development of human civilization and is connected to primary values and basic human rights - the “right to heritage”. Yet there are cultural areas where we fail to reach mutual understanding on this “indisputable universal good”, on the contrary - neutral acceptance is non-existent and social unrest prevails. These are the areas where conflicts arise and the so-called “contested” (or “dissonant”) heritage claims its presence. The heritage of totalitarian regimes in general is contested heritage par excellence yet staying only there is simplifying the matter. This project will address various issues coded in its headline. Firstly, what qualifies as contested heritage today? Secondly, how can we place the heritage of postwar and post-Wall art and architecture within that context? What are the urgent questions to be asked when discussing such contested heritage sites in a post-2020 world, in present day Europe? Research will start from the field of architectural history and theory and will develop adding political, social and cultural factors, outlining social tensions, problems of evaluation, acceptance, diversity and appropriation and potential preservation issues. Contemporary cultural conflicts and different architectural examples will be used as illustrative case-studies.