Selected papers from 2013/2014
Bulgaria is a notoriously calm, if not provincial country, where social upheavals are more of a spectacle on TV, than a real experience. Nevertheless, during the years of transition various forms of resistance emerged in this poorest European country, adding to social life a dimension of permanent irritation and discontent. In the absence of masses and great ideologies, the new forms of mobilization are more and more often designed as culture. Fighting for the right to the city, or rather for the right to appropriate the city seems one of the best visible tendencies. Battles pass on into the virtual space that, nowadays, doubles any real world human relationship. The digital city engages even more emotions, personal commitment, and creativity, as things go quicker and with less risk for the activist.
The striking thing that is observed in the different Bulgarian field-researches presented in this issue is the tendency for political action to multiply and fragment, creating thus a growing numbers of battlegrounds, where smaller and smaller groups or even individuals vigorously defend more and more specific causes, only loosely relating to each other. In a way, the polis – and the political action that maintains it - is being privatized: some do it by writing on the walls, others by organizing private groups around issues, yet others by using the public sphere not for debating the common good, but for self-promotion.
Culture seems to play an ever growing role in this process. National emblems are nothing new in politics; things become more intriguing when nationalism merges with entertainment, as it is in the case of folk dancing discos. Where does religious belief end and where does popular medicine and superstition start? Are they serious about the urban identity or do they simulate it to attract investors and tourists?
The issue tries to raise the question as to why such privatized forms of political action need to legitimize themselves through culture. Is it because this notion by definition implies difference and thus fragmentation, i.e. the right of everyone to lead his/her battle? Or does culture stand for public interest that tends to disappear in the new privatized polis?