Bulgarian archaeology. Ideology, sociopolitics and the exotic, Douglass W. Bailey

Internal auto-exoticisation

The characterisation of the Balkans (and Bulgaria) as exotic is not, however, a phenomenon inspired purely from Western bias: it is as much the product of internal events and political strategies as it is the imposition of foreign prejudices. Much effort has been expended from within to position modern Bulgaria as a separate and exotic element within Europe. This auto-exoticism or self--marginalisation runs through the long trajectory of the country's political and economic development. Indeed the history of modern Bulgaria is one of auto-exoticism.

Bulgarian auto-exoticism has entailed efforts to create a modern nation-state by illuminating its distance (ethnic, historical, linguistic) from other states as well as to eliminate any internal alternative pockets of cultural or ethnic exoticism (thus the internal campaigns of forced resettlement and name-changing of 'non--Bulgarian' Bulgarians). While roots of the auto-exoticism may be most obvious in the much romanticised struggle against a Turkish presence in the Balkans (in the area that was modern Bulgaria from 1396 to 1878), one can see a continuous line of foreign powers exerting influence almost until the present day. [3] Through each of these periods of external influence, efforts have been concentrated to establish and maintain a Bulgarian national identity. Not surprisingly, such efforts are evident in the demarcation of modern political boundaries (via common mechanisms of most nation states - for example, visa restrictions). They are also evident in the use of alternative archaeological terms for individual groups of material culture which, in terms of modern political geography, happen to straddle national borders. [4] Thus, both from a Western perspective and through an internal drive towards isolation, the political state of Bulgaria has developed as an exotic modern state within modern Eurasia.

In light of the external and internal exoticising of Bulgaria as a nation, it is not surprising that Western scholars commonly view the discipline of Bulgarian archaeology as exotic. From the West, the discipline appears to exist solely to glorify the ethos of a magnificent past through a fascination with the art and culture of extinct peoples. From this perspective it is confirmed as a discipline born in the spirit (and the period) of modernism: it seeks to study the primitive in its past and it relegates matters of causal explanation to the epiphenomena of descriptive ideas of cultural progress.

Thus, Bulgarian archaeology itself considers its object of study (i.e. the past) as exotic. In this sense, the more mundane elements of the material record hold little interest: common practice on excavations is to discard coarse-ware pottery without concern or quantification. The emphasis of research remains firmly centred on the most sensational and emotive sectors of the archaeological record (i.e. burials, figurines, metal-work, fortresses and fine-ware pottery). Most surprisingly, perhaps, the tradition of Bulgarian archaeology-as-romanticism has remained in place through the post-1989 period of the region-wide opening of intellectual borders, research resources and collaborative strategies.

I suggest that to fully understand the current condition of Bulgarian archae-ology and to appreciate the continuing desire for, and complacency with, the exotic requires an investigation of the practice of archaeology in Bulgaria. It is this task that the remainder of this chapter is dedicated.

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3. Turkish influence was replaced by Russian, German, Soviet, US-Western European.

4. A good example is the way in which the Danube manages to bisect internally consistent archaeological phenomena such as the fifth millennium Gumelnitsa and Karanovo culture complexes.