Accepted paper:

Silences and absences from the Bulgarian protests: an ethnographic approach of non-participating


Dimitra Kofti (Panteion University, Athens)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses new forms of political action in Bulgaria and processes of inclusion to and exclusion from political participation. It focusses on workers’ communities who had low participation in the 2013 protest waves.

Paper long abstract:

Political mobilisation in Bulgaria has taken new shapes since the beginning of the protests against austerity that took place in February 2013 and resulted in a governmental change. Political activism continued with ongoing protests in the summer of 2013, this time against decisions of the newly formed government. While much of the discussion about these events has focused on who are the protesters and what are the differences between the winter and summer participants, there is a relative lack of discussion about the non-protesters. Daily political talk has been widespread and brought to the fore previously unheard voices and previously neglected political practices. 'Corruption' and 'crisis', 'right' and 'left' politics and the status of the protesters as 'working class' or 'middle class' were at the center of attention. However, anti-communist discourses soon became dominant among activists and in public talk. A large amount of people stopped participating or never did, because they did not view the protests as challenging previous political practices and structures or because their political views could not be expressed through anti-communist ideas. Drawing on research with industrial workers and unemployed from two communities on the outskirts of the capital city and in a smaller industrial town, this paper explores workers' political talk and thought about protesting and syndicalism, which has been triggered by the recent political events. It aims at understanding the lack of engagement in political activism by those who view themselves as remote from the urban centers.

panel P084
The worldwide urban mobilizations: conundrums of 'democracy', 'the middle class' and 'the people'. Supported by Focaal and the IUAES Commission on Global Transformation and Marxian Anthropology