Authors:Jana Tsoneva (CEU)
Georgi Medarov (University of Sofia)
Paper short abstract:
The figure of the Provocateur gained wide prominence during the last year of anti-governmental protests in Bulgaria. However, the very popularity of the notion renders it unfit for any positive definition. Instead of essentializing it we interpret it as a rhetorical instrument used for identity creation.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper we are to elaborate on the function of the Provocateur, understood in such a way, in self-representations in the anti-government protest movement that erupted in the summer of 2013. The protesters built an identity of a "middle class revolt" against the "shadow elite" - , purportedly subverting our "transition" to a so-called "normal European state". What they claimed is that politicians are pawns in the powerful hands of a secretive force, allegedly pulling the strings from a hidden backstage. Thus here practices of "unmasking" the Provocation were a fruitful resource to "prove" a larger conspiracy against Europe, Bulgaria, civil society and even the "normal" course of history. Even the mass media got involved in the spontaneous "search and destroy" missions by airing user-made videos about suspected provocateurs. In other words, the rhetorical use of the Provocateur was functional to the protest. It sustains an identity of a "middle class citizens with open faces for a normal European development" which finds its constitutive Other in the form of the Provocateurs - masked thugs "sent" by obscure forces of the shadow elite. At the same time, however, the provocateurs are a structurally necessary force because with an enemy so extremely removed, the provocateurs fulfill the role of providing evidence of the enemy's existence.