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Ivaylo Ditchev

Mobile citizenship?
Approaches to migration often fall into one of two camps: antineoliberal hostility or
euphoria at "flows". Yet the "new mobility" implies new freedoms as well as new
privations. Researching the biographies of Bulgarian migrants, Ivaylo Ditchev finds
that the horizon of departure has become a basic dimension of the world. Mobility,
he writes, will need to be taken more seriously in the anthropology of citizenship.
Today, it is intellectually fashionable to refer to "the new mobility", just as it
was fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s to allude to "the postmodern
condition", and, in the 1990s, to "identity". Now, talk is all about "flows" and
the "dialectic of mobility and moorings".
Yet fashionable though it may be,
the discourse should not be underestimated. If everybody from Tokyo to Los
Angeles suddenly starts to talk about one thing, there must be something more
to it than cultural policy, institutional buzzwords, or authors' desire to be
For me, all three fashions are a symptom of the crisis of classical modern
national citizenship and of the search for alternatives. Postmodern thought
aestheticizes this crisis, plays with its eclecticism, draws hedonist conclusions
from the collapse of moral order. The identitarian problematic, accentuated in
south eastern Europe by the Balkan wars, tries to reinterpret the social order
through cultural models, traditions, and even contents; to transfer the functions
of ailing modern institutions onto communities. Finally, the thematic of flows
marks the moment of resignation to the fact that territorial definitions of the
world have altered for good and that one should look for new forms of
democracy. All three modes of discourse represent a search for a frame of
reference in a world where borders are becoming mobile.
Mobility provokes ambivalent reactions. On one hand, there is the extreme
negativism towards neoliberalism, not to say American imperialism (e.g. in Le
Monde diplomatique). On the other, there is the euphoria of freedom, of new
horizons, of the acceleration of history often to be witnessed in British
sociology (e.g. in John Urry et al.). It seems that a lack of European citizenship
is compensated for by discursive investments in transnational transport
corridors: missing citizens are replaced by flows and networks.
In order not to
lose our sense of reality, however, we should first analyze the new rights that
mobile citizenship entails, and especially their subjective reception and
practice beyond written norms and official documents. Such was the aim of the
study I conducted in 2006 and whose results I present below.
An article from 1/13
The first shock for the researcher working on the new Bulgarian migrants is
that nobody knows their exact number. For example, the Agency for
Bulgarians Abroad estimates that between 300 000 to 900 000 "young
Bulgarians" live in Europe and the US.
Ignoring the strange disregard for old,
temporarily resident, or illegal migrants, as well as those in other emigration
destinations, the question is: How can a state institution use an approximation
of half a million?
The situation in municipalities is similar: estimates of the
inhabitants of a city vary dramatically, even when you talk to officials in
charge of public services. This might partially be due to the ambiguous
interests of local authorities: when requesting funds, they prefer to declare that
there are more city dwellers than there are; but when it comes to reporting on
what services have been provided, it suits them to say that there are fewer.
How large is the "floating population" in Bulgaria (to borrow a term used in
China for the population that moves in search for jobs, but cannot or does not
want to settle definitively
)? Sociologists estimate it at over one million,
other words at over 13 per cent; compared to the world average of 3 per cent,
that is an impressive figure.
Every attempt to define migration raises problems. For instance, is a person
who spends ten years abroad a temporary migrant? Are those who leave their
children behind in Bulgaria permanent migrants? Subjective selfevaluation
aggravates the problem even further, since migrants usually define themselves
according to their present situation for example, a conflict with an
employer abroad makes the probability of returning home more real. I do not
raise this problem here as an obligatory apologetic introduction or as an
exercise in psychology. The difficulty in talking about migrants is structural: it
resembles the principle of indeterminacy that Heisenberg introduced into
physics, according to which we cannot know both the mass and the speed of an
elementary particle.
In an era where travelling is simpler, where foreigners have more rights and
freedoms, where cultural differences are taken into account so that they can be
all the more easily dismantled and reassembled, the horizon of departure
becomes a basic dimension of the world. Of course, people have always been
able to leave and seek happiness yet it has always been a matter of effort.
They either had to wage war, to marry, or somehow to come under the
patronage of the locals. In the last few decades, it seems that the effort to stay
and the effort to leave have begun to become comparable. If you stay at home,
An article from 2/13
you must fight for your right to persist in what you are doing; if you leave, you
may suddenly stumble upon a better opportunity at the immense marketplace
of citizenships. On one hand, there is the old territorial participation; on the
other, there is "voting with your feet" (to use the GDR expression of the late
The dimension of mobility will clearly need to be taken more
seriously in the anthropology of citizenship.
The notion of "migrants" I use here covers recent emigrants, seasonal workers,
and illegals. Even after regulating their position in the host country, migrants
retain not only an emotional connection to Bulgaria, but also a registered
address, real estate, professional connections, health insurance, and contact
with their family (spouse and children), which in many cases they have left
behind. Here, I focus on the "low" migrants, those who have no preliminary
knowledge, credentials, or contacts and thus depend on intermediaries (friends,
fellow villagers, fellow Balkan nationals, relatives, etc.). In the process of
migration, they almost always lose some of their social status: the engineer
becomes a builder, the teacher becomes a nurse. The minority of the "high"
migrants that we excluded from the study people with recognized
qualifications, preliminary contacts, credentials, language proficiency were
essentially those able to get along on their own. The time frame is also
important: the observations here refer to the period between the fall of the
Berlin wall and Bulgaria's accession to the EU in January 2007. Since then,
though mobility is of course far from disappearing, the new rights acquired by
migrants have change the picture.
What does the idealtypical trajectory of the migrant look like? According to
the biographies we collected, it goes through four periods. The first is the
dream. General pessimism about the country's future, together with vague
images of abroad and hearsay generated by friends or the media, creates a
feeling of identification with the fellowcountrymen who have emigrated
successfully, much the same as one identifies with lottery winners (when the
exception, rather than the rule, is visible). Instead of rationally calculating their
strengths and weaknesses and building a global existential strategy,
prospective migrants oscillate between hope and despair. Generally, they have
no institutional support from the state when deciding to emigrate and depend
on information collected by chance, if not deliberately manipulated by people
who profit from people transfer. We met no one who had tried to learn the
language of the destination country beforehand. Language preparation takes
years while the decision to leave, according to the biographies we listened to,
is made within a month.
There then follows a period of invisibility. Usually, the migrant spends some
time as an illegal, or at least in some form of deviation from the rules: he or
she does not pay taxes or social insurance, submits a counterfeit
recommendation for a job, has no registered address, and so on. But even if
everything is perfectly correct, the feeling of guilt remains: there always seems
to be some rule one has failed to learn about, some requirement one has not
fulfilled, that puts one at risk of being expelled. This feeling of have no rights,
of being a second class citizen, is strengthened by the fact that in the initial
period the migrant only communicates with the intermediary the one who
provides the job and accommodation and who acts as translator in relations
with the employer. Salaries are low, work is temporary and exhausting, and a
fortyhour week seems a luxury. The goal is not simply to survive, but to save
money, which can only be done by working longer hours. Social or labour
rights are reserved for the locals, not for newcomers, who arouse contempt and
hostility for undercutting pay levels and employment standards in the host
An article from 3/13
Next comes slow, ambiguous integration. Progression to this stage does not
necessarily mean that the proper documents have been acquired. It implies that
the accumulation of a minimum of knowledge, skills and contacts enable one
to take charge of one's own affairs alone including what Pierre Bourdieu
called the ability to break the rules in accordance with the rule.
Simultaneously, the symbolic wound of losing one's status is transformed into
a growing hatred for the host country and an ossification of identity. The
horizon of return is a psychological protection against the hardships of migrant
life. This does not mean that one necessarily returns, but that one never
commits oneself completely to the local life, always keeping open the road to
Finally, there is the "triumphal" return. For those who decide or are forced
to decide to give up and go home, return is usually experienced as defeat.
Of course, money is an unambiguous measure of success; but however big the
savings one comes home with, there always remains the feeling that they could
have been more. Besides, the shock of considerably lower wages at home
causes depression. Migrants returning to the home country have lost time and
broken their connections, which makes reintegration difficult; they have to live
on their savings, which start to disappear quickly. A frequent compensatory
reaction is conspicuous consumption aimed at convincing others that one has
done well. In most cases, the money saved with so much pain is spent on cars,
flats and furniture, and rarely to start businesses (which is only the case with
persons who planned to do so from the very beginning). In many cases,
reintegration becomes impossible and the migrant leaves again: like the
stranger of Alfred Schtz, he or she can never return home because they have
become a stranger to themselves.
Let me now add to this typical migrant trajectory a few qualitative
observations to give it more anthropological substance.
The place of contingency is surprising in biographies. In a sense, the very
definition of the kind of migrants studied (those without preliminary
knowledge, contacts, or skills) presupposes improvised departures. Yet we
were surprised to hear in dozens of stories that there had been less than a
month between the decision (most often provoked by being fired) and taking
the bus. How can one to decide to change one's life so quickly, without
An article from 4/13
preparation, without any certainty whatsoever? "I left with some money in my
pocket and the phone number of a young guy, the son of my grandmother's
cousin, whom I did not know personally", said a woman migrating to Italy. Or:
"What saved me was that, in the bus itself, I met a woman who turned out to be
the wife of a friend of my husband."
As always when people feel helpless, miraculous coincidences and
unexplainable accidents multiply. The fellow traveller you just met offers you
accommodation; the passerby who saw you sitting in despair at the bus
station at midnight becomes your first employer. Several times we heard the
story about two friends, one of whom had been preparing to emigrate for years
and the other who had joined him for company. And then you see what destiny
is: the frivolous one (sometimes he tells the story) managed to survive abroad,
while the pedantic one failed and returned disgraced. It is not my intention to
study migrants' urban legends but to emphasize the feeling of lack of control
over one's own life, which is precisely what generates this type of
mythological thinking.
One should also note here the timelessness into which most "low" migrants
fall. In most cases, the jobs defeat the initial expectations of people from
higher sociovocational groups: in career terms, there is no advantage in
accumulating years of service on the black labour market. Let me mention the
case of the student who enrolled at a northern European university in order to
have the right to work as a waiter: he did not work in order to study, but
pretended to study in order to work. The only thing that goes beyond the
shortterm is on one hand money, and on the other, regularization of
documents. Migration also reveals a cultural discrepancy in the perception of
time and age between East and West. In Bulgaria, one emerges from
adolescence later but works until an older age; conversely, in the more
developed capitalist countries, one plunges into professional life as soon as
possible under no circumstances allowing "gaps" to appear in one's CV
yet is thrown out of the system much earlier. To live in the West with a
Bulgarian temporality means to doom oneself to failure. The solution for
migrants, at least in the realm of the imaginary, is the horizon of escape. What
will we do when we get old and they fire us? Return home!
It is hard to overemphasize the role played by the lack of proficiency in the
foreign language in the life of the migrant. Bulgarians have no major cultural
problems in integration: religion plays no big role for them, their everyday life
is built upon the imitation of western models, and gender relations do not differ
dramatically. This is why language acquires such a weight as a cultural limit.
The percentage of Bulgarians declaring that they know no foreign language at
all varies between 40 and 50 per cent.
Of course, this does not mean that the
proficiency of the other 50 to 60 per cent has been tested: the deplorable state
of foreign language teaching in Bulgaria is notorious. For an overwhelming
majority of the older generation, who studied under socialism, the foreign
language is Russian, which does not help in the EU anyhow. One must also
deduct from this figure about onetenth of Bulgarian citizens whose second
language is Turkish or another Balkan language. Statistics aside, there is a
structural factor that sharply reduces languageproficiency: with few
exceptions, the languages of the main emigration countries Spain, Italy, and
Greece are not studied by young Bulgarians. What results is simple, but
frightening. In most cases, the language is learnt on the spot in the course of a
An article from 5/13
painful, temporary, and marginal existence.
The problem can be illustrated by a very concrete observation. Our team was
surprised to learn that in Italy, Romanian women employed to care for elderly
people are paid a hundred euros more per month than Bulgarian women. In a
salary of 600 to 700 euros, that is a considerable difference. Behind the
culturalist explanations and stereotypes, the reason turned out to be mundane:
Romanians understand some Italian because of the proximity between the
Romance languages, which makes them, other conditions being equal, better
nurses. In interviews with builders that had worked in Spain,
we learned that
mastery of the foreign language to the extent that one is able to negotiate with
the employer without help raises one's salary by up to 50 per cent, since a
"commission" to the gobetween no longer needs to be paid.
Bulgarians abroad often take fees for finding jobs for newcomers and
sometimes they sublet the miserable dwellings that they themselves are
On many occasions we heard stories of new arrivals being robbed by
other Bulgarians on their first night, which is rather unpleasant for people who
carry all their money on them. Hence the utterly ambivalent attitude to fellow
countrymen: on the one hand, "it is the Bulgarian way", "this is how we are,
we always play dirty on one another". On the other hand, "the Bulgarian is a
Bulgarian", "there is no one else to help you".
But the role of intermediary is related not only to language: a main task is to
assist the circumvention of the law, as they know its loopholes and grey zones.
This is especially important in the southern European destinations, where no
document and no recommendation can replace the personal contact. Where
hiring always is done via a facetoface assessment, somebody needs to bring
you physically to your future boss. The middlemen are usually older
immigrants who have passed through the initiation of semilegal existence, for
example Africans or Albanians in Italy or LatinAmericans in Spain. They
provoke in eastern Europeans a racist identity crisis similar to the "miseries of
position" (misres de position) that Bourdieu identified in the French suburbs,
where one measures one's misfortune by one's own prejudices ("This is rock
bottom, some negroes command me!"). The other phenomenon is the
appearance of vague regional solidarities on a Balkan basis, where
longestablished Serbs, Croats or Turks take care of Bulgarian newcomers.
Unlike the African gobetween, the Serb has a definite emotional load: he can
exploit you, nevertheless he is "one of us". What is strange is that
postsocialist solidarities (e.g. with Russians or Poles) occur seldom, maybe
because of the differences in the relations with the EU that emerged among the
former Eastern Bloc countries after the end of communism.
An article from 6/13
The ossification of stereotypes
It is has been argued that global mixing, instead of increasing understanding
and tolerance, multiplies borders and sharpens conflicts.
There is no cultural
interaction that is not based on stereotypes; the very essence of the sign implies
the reduction of infinite particularity into a simple frame that we will recognize
again and again.
The ossification I am referring to is the result not simply of the more frequent
physical encounter of people from different communities, but of the
dissolution of the common public space in which they take place. This applies
not only to language, but also to the horizon of values, the rules, and the
institutionalized expression of the public interest. Migrants' distrust of
institutions is indicative; typically, they prefer to send money home via a
stranger than by a bank transfer,
which, in the final account, hardly comes
out cheaper. On the one hand, migrants are discriminated against; on the other,
they are tolerated as an important economic resource and are even periodically
"granted amnesty", in other words regularized. This double condition, which is
especially prevalent in southern European countries, reduces the cost of labour
and social standards, creating general submissiveness.
The other effect is the sharpening of ethnic struggle. I refer here to Fredrik
Barth, who made a Copernican turn in thinking about this concept, showing
that it is not ethnic identity that creates borders, but, conversely, that borders
provoke identitarian experiences.
In other words, practices of mobility, the
encounter with rivals, and the struggle for resources are projected onto the
imaginary as deep, essential differences, which crystallize into images and
I use "ethnic" here in this sense: a fiction that results from
borders, clashes, and rivalries.
Interviews with migrants are an inexhaustible source of stereotypes, especially
when one talks to women. Italians are lazy; Ukrainian women are "ready to do
whatever to round up the end of the month"; English men are real gentlemen
because "they always pay your bill"; while the Germans are "the worse people
on Earth". This is how a young woman, who had worked as a waitress in
Germany, described them:
They are horrible, totally illbred and only think of how to get
drunk. They fart, they belch, they blow their noses noisily, and
as soon as they see a young girl, they try to lay her.
An article from 7/13
Maybe the ethnic disgust becomes understandable if we try to imagine how the
same girl might feel in a pub considerably below her sociocultural
environment in Bulgaria. Ethnic hatred diminishes in countries with liberal
legislation, where migrants are treated more equally and as a consequence
become integrated easier. Hence the Spanish, who until recently were thought
by Bulgarians to be foreign, exotic, and inscrutable, emerged in interviews as
those "closest to us", as "southerners" and "partyloving". Conversely,
experience of the severe legislation in northern Europe overrides all memory of
Bulgaria's alliances with Germany, when the Bulgarians were called "the
Prussians of the Balkans".
The hypothesis of a discrete adaptation of identities to social practices is
supported by another curious detail: Bulgarians in emigration often pretend
they come from other, more prestigious countries. Since practically nothing is
known about Bulgaria, migrants borrow the ethnic mask of betterknown
nations such as Serbia, Turkey, and Russia. A story that we heard in several
different versions, and that is obviously an urban legend, illustrates this
Someone brings a young Bulgarian man to a Spanish
employer. "Where are you from?", asks the boss. "Greece, the
native land of philosophy." "Oh, great. I have here a
compatriot of yours, come and meet him." Our guy starts
sweating, his legs trembling as he approaches the other
"Greek", who seemed also to be rather nervous. "Are you one
of us?", he murmurs in Bulgarian. And the other exclaims:
"Hey, thank God, I was wondering how to get out of this!" And
the two compatriots embrace each other before the eyes of the
smiling employer.
There is another limit to the free exchange of people, money and commodities
that liberalism cannot but ignore: the family. You are related to your family
before and beyond free contract; in this sense, it raises serious questions about
global mobility.
How do husband and wife find a job simultaneously? This usually doesn't
happen and the couple has to spend up to ten years separated, expecting to
bring the whole family to join the one who left once he or she has been able to
stabilize their position. In the mean time, remittances are sent home, which
vary according to the income; in most cases, a hundred euros per month is
considered to be a decent support. In some cases, the departure is a result of a
crisis in the couple; in other cases, it triggers a crisis and parallel relations
An unexpected detail in the biographies was the relatively high age of
emigration. In the group we defined as "low" migrants, we came time and
again upon the following case: someone gets married, has a child, and then
departs at and age of between 30 and 40. A probable explanation could be, as
mentioned, the extended adolescence of Bulgarians: young people live with
their parents until a late age, and it is marriage that makes them face the
hardships of life and prompts them to seek miraculous solutions. Of course,
events triggering departure act in tandem: you give birth and then you are fired
An article from 8/13
by an irresponsible employer.
As for children, they, of course, are a dead weight for migrants. They are not
covered by foreign social security systems in many respects and they make
migrants much more vulnerable to all kinds of administrative control and
police checks. After the mother has departed,
the child stays with the
grandmother, who gets not only a role and attention but also financial support
for "the house in which the child is raised". But this is not the old practice of
adoption: the mother is present in the daily life of her child as a new, global
telemother, who calls by mobile phone every day with special discount cards
or, for the more successful ones, appears smiling or crying over Skype. She
asks her son what he has had for breakfast and whether he did his homework,
she scolds him, she applies longdistance punishments, she promises gifts; in
short, she takes an active part in his upbringing. The dramas that take place
when such telechildren finally reunite with their mothers are heartrending:
obviously, technology cannot yet replace presence; the parent is idealized and
turned into a phantasm.
In fact, children are essential to migration ideology: in the biographies, the fact
that they are left without parents for many long years (often during the most
difficult period of their lives) is represented as a sacrifice "for their own good".
Parents migrate in order that the children should lack nothing, so that they can
save for a flat for them, so that one day the children will be able to join them in
the foreign country. Yet migrant children with whom we talked seemed far less
ready to travel than their parents. Migration is something heavy, frightening,
degrading; home seems better.
Of course, the best way to become integrated into the foreign environment is to
marry. We met only a few such cases, either because they drop out of the
Bulgarian community, or because they do not fall into the definition of the
studied group: those who marry can usually communicate, they have friends
and relations. The endogamy of Bulgarians abroad (and of emigrant
communities in general) is largely due to unwillingness to invest in
communication, to spend money on inviting of guests, on making gifts, on
adapting to the cultural life of the country. In Rila, a Bulgarian town in whose
inhabitants systematically migrate to Pamplona, I asked interviewees if they
had ever gone to the bullfights attracting so many tourists there. The answer
was no, they used the holidays around the bullfights to visit Bulgaria, because
at then one could get days off. It is cheaper to drink the beer one buys in the
supermarket on the bench in the park and to celebrate the New Year in one's
room. The problem is that one not only fails to learn the language (of which
these people are aware), but also that one stays out of networks, fails to make
connections, friends (of which they are not).
An article from 9/13
The double life
The picture that this study revealed was rather depressing. We met people who
divided their lives in half: on one hand, hard toil, thriftiness, humiliation; on
the other hand, leisure, consumption, conceit. A similar change was caused by
the division of work and leisure brought by the emergence of industrial
capitalism in the nineteenth century. Today, this division today is not only
temporal but also geographic: one travels abroad to work, one comes home to
spend. In a certain sense, tourists from affluent countries perform a movement
in the opposite direction, but following the same underlying structure. Or in the
longdistance version: one works abroad, one's relatives spend at home.
One of the obvious causes of this is the difference in the cost of labour and
commodities: with Bulgaria's gross national product at onethird of the EU
average, everything earned abroad appears twice as large, everything spent at
home appears twice as cheap.
The migrant suddenly becomes several times
richer at least such is his or her feeling (since how are selfexploitation,
misery, injustice, or a broken private life to be included into this calculation?).
Of course, there is some effectiveness in this form of life: it stimulates
economies, allows millions to earn a living and has been practiced for decades
by Italians or Portuguese in France, for example, or by Mexicans in the USA.
In the Soviet bloc, it existed with the system of residence permits and
conditional migration.
During classical modernity, however, migration had a
fixed direction, there was a centre and a periphery, large and small, and the
clear goal of settling down for life, which implies naturalization and the
acquisition of all the rights of local citizens. Today's postmodern mobility is a
constant oscillation between two poles, and it is not at all evident from where
one departs and where one arrives. The student here goes to pick oranges in the
village there, the teacher becomes a nurse for the elderly. The new rhizomatic
nature of space can be seen in the bus routes, which no longer depart from
Sofia to Madrid, but connect one small place directly with another.
One way of thinking the new mobility could be the concept of "dispositive"
used by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish (1975). In French, this word
means not only a technical arrangement but also the deployment of military or
police force: it suggests the link between the discursive and the spatial
dimensions of power. The disciplinary dispositive is, in this sense, a
heterogeneous formation that goes beyond the "episteme" of Archeology of
Knowledge (1966), adding to it institutions, architectural arrangements,
An article from 10/13
territorialization, taxonomies, legislative measures, scientific terms, moral
attitudes, and so on.
The dispositive of knowledge/power does not possess transcendence. Rather, it
is the form itself of social interactions, which means that it includes both
power and resistance against it, both spoken and unspoken, consciousness and
unconscious. The liberal arrangement of modernity goes even further: it
implies a certain dose of freedom, as expressed in the physiocratic formula of
laissezfaire. For Foucault, this liberal freedom of movement is the reverse
side of the power dispositive. People (in this case migrants) left to circulate
freely follow the folds of reality, they take into account the slits left by the
dispositive. Moreover, the dispositive is so arranged as to direct free human
I will not be especially original if I say that today's strengthened,
liberalized mobility runs parallel with the "war on terror",
the most visible
part of the new transnational power dispositive. New flows are "released" to
circulate freely around lines and borders, which are fixed in new arrangements.
This other side of the disciplinary dispositive is suggested by Zygmunt
Bauman's concept of "liquid modernity". This is a world in which problems are
not resolved through fight and conflict, but through escape, evasion, slipping
and avoidance.
This world is the reign of uncertainty, of radical ambiguity
and of the incessant selferasure of all knowledges, all former loyalties. The
state and sociality in general are "runaway".
Following an old anthropological invariant in all human cultures, power is
close to chaos and death: it threatens to unleash the forces of evil if one does
not obey it. In the postnational world, power threatens with its own
disappearance: You don't want to work for lower wages? Then we will move
the factory to Bangalore.
However, the liberation of power from its own
dispositive, its unbinding from its spatial locatedness and the responsibilities
towards the human communities it governs,
has today been adopted by the
subjects themselves. Such a strategy of resistance I called elsewhere "fluid
which is practiced between two poles, neither of them stable,
definitive, or fully engaging civil energies. In fluid citizenship, every problem
may be resolved by escape and there is always a horizon of the elsewhere. The
dominators escape in order to punish and conquer; the dominated escape to slip
away and resist. Looked at in one way, this is a wonderful victory over death,
or at least over the fear of death: life never ossifies, it is never fatally linked to
the ground under one's feet.
An article from 11/13
See: John Urry, Global Complexity, Polity: Cambridge 2003.
See: Tim Richardson, "Making European spaces new corridors in Eastern Europe", in:
Bittner, R., Wilfried Hachenbroich (eds.), Transit Spaces, Berlin 2006, 5073; David
Morley, Kevin Robins, Spaces of identity: global media, electronic landscapes and cultural
boundaries, London 1995.
The project was to collect life stories during the same bus journey (to Italy, Austria,
Germany and France), as well as to do fieldwork in two of the most strongly migrant towns
in Bulgaria Dupnitsa and Rila. The project was implemented with the support of the
Research Centre for Social Sciences at Sofia University. The students in cultural
anthropology who participated were Silvia Petrova, Desislava Koleva, Nia Neykova, Anton
Georgiev and Deyan Petrov; one of the criteria in composing the team was that we had all
had some migrant experience.
See the projects "Coming Home" and "The Bulgarian Dream", run by the Ministry of
The official figure for the population of Bulgaria in 2006 was 7.4 million. But no one is sure
how many persons really reside in the country at any given moment.
See: Dorothy J. Solinger, "China's Floating Population", in: Merle Goldman, Roderick
MacFarquhar (eds.), The paradox of China's postMao reforms, Harvard edition, World,
For the considerations and difficulties of such an estimation, see Petya Kabakchieva,
"Crossing Borders: Changing Roles, Changing Identities (Temporary Migration as a Form
of SocioCultural Exchange in the Enlarged EU)", Research paper CAS, Sofia, 2006.
According to the UN Department of Demography, in 2002, 175 million people lived outside
the country in which they were born. See: Barbara Crossette, "Millions of People
Worldwide on the Move", in The Atlantic, 17 May 2004,
This development is preceded by the domestic migration of the peasant exodus, which was
strongest in Bulgaria between the 1950s and the 1970s.
Protectionist xenophobia is more characteristic of the leftists; the xenophobia of the
rightists usually has cultural motives.
"If one is to propose a cultural definition of perfection, I would say that this is know how to
play with the rule up to the very limits, to break the rule according to the rule" Pierre
Bourdieu, La misre du monde, Paris: Seuil 1993, 82.
Alfred Schtz, L'tranger; l'homme qui revient au pays, Paris: Allia 2003.
E.g. the Dnevnik as of 22 February 2007 gives 41 per cent, and Darik Radio as of 26
Janzary 2007, 44 per cent.
Conducted in the southern Bulgarian town of Rila.
The most colourful case was a man in the "Bulgarian" suburb of Milan who rented old cars,
abandoned at the side of the road, to his compatriots to sleep in.
See e.g. Klaus Roth, Kulturwissenschaften und Interkulturelle Kommunikation. Der Beitrag
der Volkskunde zur Untersuchung interkultureller Interaktionen. St. Ingbert 2004.
In one story, we were told about the "sweet money" that a woman sent from Italy to her
family in the village of Vladaya. We thought this was a metaphor, but it emerged that the
money travelled in jars of sugar, casually arranged amidst the rest of the luggage.
Fredrik Barth ed., Ethnic groups and boundaries. The social organization of cultural
difference, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget 1969.
Formerly, I referred to this construction of the self in relation and in opposition to the other
as "identity games". See: Ivaylo Ditchev, Borders between Me and Me, Sofia: Bulgarski
Pissatel, 1990.
Unlike the traditional travel to make a living in the nineteenth century (the gourbet), the
new migration is more and more feminized: 60 per cent of mobile persons are female, and
in destinations like Italy and Greece considerably more. See: Svetla Kostadinova,
"Bulgarian emigrants more benefits than losses for Bulgaria", Institute for Market
Economy 2005 ,
My request is that this amateur exercise in macroeconomics should be taken as a figure of
Ivaylo Ditchev, "Communist Urbanization and Conditional Citizenship", in: City, vol. 9,
no. 3, 2005.
See: Michel Foucault, Dits et crits II, Gallimard, Paris 2001, 50; also Gilles Deleuze,
"Qu'estce qu'un dispositif?," in: Michel Foucault philosophe, Paris: Seuil 1989, 185195;
Louis Philippe Blanchette, Michel Foucault, "Gense du biopouvoir et dispositifs de
scurit", in: Lex Electronica vol. 11, no 2, 2006,; on territoriality, see R.
An article from 12/13
Sack, Human territoriality. Its theory and history, Cambridge: CUP 1986.
To give an idea of the arbitrary, in other words powerrelated nature of the fear of what is
called "terror" in America, I refer to the UK newspaper the Daily Mirror's assessment (in
August 2006) of the likelihood of causes of death the United Kingdom. The chances of
losing one's life in a road accident is 1/8000; as a result of food poisoning, 1/300000; by
drowning in the bath, 1/650000; by falling out of the bed, 1/8000000; and by a terrorist act,
1/9300000. Imagine a prime minister who waged war on falling out of bed!
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity, Cambridge: Polity 1999, 11.
Anthony Giddens, Runaway World. How globalization is reshaping our lives, London and
New York: Routledge 1999.
The motto of this new world is the cynical aphorism of the British economist Joan
Robinson: "There is only one thing that is worse than to be exploited not to be
Aihwa Ong speaks of flexible citizenship, bearing in mind "the strategies and the goals of
managers, technocrats and mobile professionals who seek for ways to simultaneously
circumvent the different regimes of the nation states and take advantage of them". See:
Aihwa Ong, Flexible citizenship. The cultural logics of transnationality, Duke University
Press, Duhram and London 1999, 112.
Ivaylo Ditchev, "Fluid citizenship. Utopia of Freedom or Reality of Submission?", in:
Published 20080627
Original in Bulgarian
Translation by Todor Petkov
Contribution by Critique & Humanism
First published in Critique & Humanism 25 (2008) (Bulgarian version)
Ivaylo Ditchev/Critique & Humanism
An article from 13/13