Papers of BAS, Humanities and Social Sciences

Vol. 2, No 1-2, 2015

HISTORY, LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE, CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

BODY HYGIENE OF SOUTHERN SLAVS – RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL ASPECTS: ТHE CASE OF BULGARIA

Maria Schnitter

Abstract: The article aims to analyze the characteristics of the attitude towards personal hygiene among the Southern Slavs from the Middle Ages to present days. Based on primary sources and ethnographic literature of the period from 9th to 20th century, it reveals the picture of personal hygiene as an important marker of ethnic and religious identity at the Balkans in the past and present days.

Attention is drawn to religious doctrine as an important normative factor in public attitudes. It traces the various stages and transformations in the concept of “pure” and “impure” in the Balkans, occurring under the influence of overlapping cultural, ethnic and religious contexts. Based on the facts, two main conclusions can be drawn. First, under the rule of an alien confession, the attitude towards hygiene becomes ethnic and religious differentiation sign, moreover the association of hygiene practices with the cultural tradition of ‘the other’ (i.e. Islamic culture) most likely prevented their adoption in the Orthodox Christian environment, i.e.“pure” is interpreted as “unclean” and vice versa. Second, outlined is the process of transforming bathing from a public affair to an intimate and private action that takes place in the second half of the 20th century.

Key words: Southern Slavs; hygiene, body, Orthodox-Christianity, Islam, pre-modernity, modernity; norm