Being nationalist: identity within a post-Ottoman state

Ratcheva, Vesselina (2014) Being nationalist: identity within a post-Ottoman state. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

PDF - Published Version
Download (49MB) | Preview


The thesis defines and explores three different modalities of nationalism - diagnosis, activism and redemption - in the context of contemporary Bulgaria. Nationalists see a significant divergence between 'who we should be' and 'who we are'. This is accentuated by Bulgarian citizens' experiences of socio-political chaos and uncertainty. The thesis looks at the political rituals which aim to redeem the 'ill' Bulgarian nation, conceived as both post-Ottoman and post-Soviet. It focuses the importance of affect for understanding the relevance of the nation for citizens’ sense of self.

I begin by examining the apparatus of production through which the Bulgarian national subject is imbued with a particular character. I consider how it has been constituted historically and how it continues to be moulded by contemporary discourses. I demonstrate that 'being Bulgarian' is nowadays a primarily negative state of being, defined through the discourse of the ill nation.

As far as nationalists are concerned, this illness can be cured only through attempting, out of the debris of historical contingency, to renew social structures so that they more closely resemble the ideal. My research focused on one nationalist organisation in Bulgaria which attempted to fulfil this task: VMRO (or IMRO- the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Movement). I explore how the organisation creates and renews itself as a descendant of the national revival movements of the 19th and early 20th century, and thus as a valid form of contemporary nationalism, while at the same time it fills the role of a modern political party.

To heal the nation, VMRO declares a need to be vigilant against further catastrophes and to address the consequences of previous ones. It thus interprets existing social grievances according to specific narratives about the nation’s problems and prescribes redemptive action. VMRO addresses a public which has internalised a sense of being judged by 'the international' (often imagined as 'a dictate'). This is not the 'real' international, but an imagined, power-laden domain. Nationalists engage with this domain by constructing illicit discourses which challenge this nexus of power. In the thesis, I explore how the traditional imperatives of a nationalist organisation - making claims for territories, populations and minority issues - are hybridized by the organisation's dialogic engagement with both 'the international', with citizens' daily concerns and their affective states.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory. The state. Theories of the state > JC311 Nationalism. Nation state
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2014 11:45
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2016 10:53

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update