Papers of BAS. Humanities and Social Sciences

Vol. 8, 2021, No. 1

Bulgarian case studies in the ethnography of communication.

I. Balkanizing the metaphor

Petko Ivanov

Abstract. The essay presents an ethnographic case study of the 1990s’ crisis of the former Bulgarian national air carrier BALKAN. Given the negative connotations of the Balkan trope (viz. balkanization, the Balkan powder keg, etc.) in the dominant Western discourses, I argue that the dropping of the company’s ratings and the constant decrease of international passenger traffic in the 1990s was intensified by the metaphorical infelicity of the air carrier’s name. This ethnographic anecdote posits the question of whose meanings prevail and what are the factors that determine the metaphor’s activity scope. My claim is that metaphors are not only shaping the identities and subjectivities of social actors but also serve as instruments for (re)arranging the power-relationships between them. Operating from the position of extra-tropological power, the Western organizing metaphors serve as the principle instruments for “corrosion” of local meanings, thus forcing the rival metaphors to work against their implied scenarios, or to become disorganizing metaphors. From this viewpoint any socio-cultural “quality space” presents itself as a power-laden site of intense trope competition and struggle between the metaphors’ local and global meanings.

Keywords: Balkans as metaphor, the notion of Balkanization, ethnography of metaphor, global production of locality, Bulgarian history