Accepted Paper:

Governing a (guest)house: the market for and against the house in the Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria  

Author:

Detelina Tocheva (CNRS/Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités)

Paper short abstract:

In the Bulgarian Rhodopes, family-run guesthouses emerged with the implementation of market economy. Located at the intersection of domestic and market life, these houses follow diverging trajectories, attesting to ambivalent entwinements of the domestic, market and political spheres.

Paper long abstract:

In Bulgaria, the political authorities advertise rural tourism as a new economic sector for mountain areas affected by the continuous economic downturn. In the Rhodope mountains, virtually all families are faced with unemployment, chronical precariousness and work-related out-migration.

My ethnographic fieldwork since 2009 in the southern Rhodopes shows that families who host tourists experience the relation between governing their own (guest)house and the political government of the market economy in various ways.

I focus on two houses, where the enmeshments of domestic life and the tourist business are organized in two different ways, exemplifying two distinct modes of participation in the encompassing political economy and two distinct projects of self-assertion.

In the first case, the effort of keeping up with the demands of hosting tourists permeated all aspects of the hosting family's life and led to an affective and economic fission in the family.

In the second case, taking in tourists is kept at some distance from the life of the family; it is not the family's main economic resource.

Thus, governing a (guest)house appears as the art of finding a balance between two contradictory, yet related processes: the involvement of the house in the market and its separation from it. I use this observation as an entry to discuss what Gudeman has termed "economy's tension": the tension between the house, as a material 'base' and moral entity, and the market. I bring in Gudeman's framework key political dimensions to underscore diverging modes of government of the house.

Panel P141
Oikos: households, markets and nation