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.
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.
The Two “Great Games”: “Homo Ludens” in Central Asia
The project “The Two “Great Games”: “Homo Ludens” in Central Asia” has been born out of the applicant’s experience of research of international politics in post-Soviet Central Asia. The pervasiveness of the label “the new “Great Game” linking the nowadays developments in Central Asia with the Anglo-Russian rivalry of the 19th century has made me question the “ludic” dimension of international politics in this region. The project would try to reveal why and how the metaphor of the “Great Game” has become so entrenched in the analyses of international politics in Central Asia; what this historical analogy elucidates and what it obfuscates; what it means for practical policy-making. The project would also raise fundamental questions: does the “game” reference imply that there might be some “rules of the game”? Does it hint that there is something “not quite serious”, something “ludic” about the international politics of Central Asia? The project would expand our knowledge of how and under what conditions the academic and political representations of Central Asia developed and crystallized. It would help, in this particular case, to narrow the gaps separating the philosophy of politics, international relations theory and area studies.
The Antisemitic Myth of the Jewish Puppeteer: Sephardic Experiences
Throughout history, Antisemitic accounts and portrayals have served the purpose of alienating, othering and isolating vulnerable Jewish minorities from their respective societies. The common thread is one of scapegoating in times of change, uncertainty, crisis or war. These tropes are often transnational, versatile, and adaptable to very specific contexts: they tend to take the shape of universal myths that adopt local customs and peculiarities. The result is a powerful dehumanisation of a Jewish collective that becomes the target of an irrational hatred based on tribal fears of infiltration and secrecy. Hoax, rumour and conspiracy theory operate independently from the Jews themselves: they appear both in contexts with a Jewish presence and in those without one. In the case of the latter, popular perceptions of globalization can act as a sounding board. Late medieval Spain, immersed in an age of exploration and discovery, and in the transition between manuscript and print, was the cradle of a ‘world conspiracy’ with unearthly resemblances to those of our era of globalization and fast-paced spreading of information, and propaganda, across the internet and social media.
Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj of Nishapur (d. 261 H/875 CE): The Critical Saint
Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj of Nishapur (d. 261 H/875 CE) is famous for his al-Musnad al-ṣaḥīḥ (The Sound collection). The Ṣaḥīḥ is a compilation of traditions (ḥadīth) going back to the Prophet Muḥammad (d. 11 H/632 CE) that Sunni Muslims regard as the third most authoritative source of legal norms after the Qurʾān and Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl al-Bukhārī’s (194–256 H/810–70 CE) ḥadīth collection al-Jāmiʿ al-ṣaḥīḥ. Muslim ranks among the founders of the science of ḥadīth criticism. Despite his renown, Muslim’s life and works came only sporadically to the attention of Western ḥadīth scholarship while arabophone studies have been restricted by the apologetic perception of Muslim. The present project studies Muslim’s life, works, theology, and method in ḥadīth criticism based on a wide range of biographical sources and ḥadīth collections. These sources are studied by a variety of text-critical approaches, including the method of ‘compilation criticism’. For the first time Muslim’s theological views are studied in a systematic manner, which offers a glimpse in the development of the early Sunni theology. Four works by Muslim that were considered lost will be reconstructed from hitherto neglected later sources. A detailed study of the transmission of Muslim’s Ṣaḥīḥ is part of the project, which is expected to result in the publication of a peer-reviewed article and a monograph about Muslim in English.
Ancient Magic in the Age of the Enlightenment: Medieval book amulets as textbooks and popular reading among the Bulgarians in the 18th–19th centuries
The project focuses on the late transformations, marginalization and disappearance of an older medieval tradition characteristic of the culture of Orthodox Bulgarians, Serbs and Vlachs: the copying and carrying as apotropaia of small–format manuscript miscellanies (‘book amulets’) containing Slavic translations of various apocrypha, prayers, as well as calendar, divination, prognostic, medicinal and other works, each perceived as a textual amulet. In the 18th and 19th centuries, these ‘magical’ texts were frequently used to teach children, but the practice was gradually discontinued with the development of a modern school system based on printed textbooks and dominated by secular teachers dedicated to modernizing Bulgarian society along pro–European, rational and pragmatic lines. However, interest in this type of literature declined slowly due to the strong belief in its special protective powers, as evidenced by the numerous printed editions of some of the most popular textual amulets in the form of small pamphlets of the second half of the 19th century. Thus, the project aims to explore, by means of a case study, how the modernization of society sealed the fate of some traditional worldviews and beliefs whose roots could be traced back to the cultural traditions of the ancient Middle East and the Greco–Roman Mediterranean.