WITNESS AND ARCHIVE – BETWEEN MICROHISTORY AND SOCIOLOGY
Snezhana Dimitrova, Svetlana Sabeva, Nina Nikolova
FRIENDSHIP IN LONELINESS. A SOCIOLOGICAL REFLEXION ON BORDERS
Friendship and loneliness belong into those social phenomena to which established sociology pays peripheral attention or no attention at all, or, as in the case loneliness, it does so by treating it primarily as a state of social deprivation. Such phenomena do in fact belong to the borderline sphere of – or also outside – the society, provided that it is conceived and analysed as ‘social totality’, and moreover, from the perspective of integration, inclusion and stability. However, it is wrong to infer that for this reason, such phenomena possess marginal social and sociological relevance. It is to be shown, in taking recourse to the ideas of Georg Simmel and Martin Heidegger, that in the interplay between friendship and loneliness – a re-emphasized and, in the same time, reflexive form of social marginality – the constitutive premises, problems and limits of sociation come out especially clear. This speaks in favour of doing more intensely, also on other occasions, this type of ‘border reflexion’ within sociology.
VIOLENCE AND LANGUAGE. NOTES ON THE SOCIOANALYSIS OF THE DOCUMENTS OF THE FORMER STATE SECURITY
The article discusses the interpenetration between violence and language – through the figure of ‘language of violence’ – as far as violence can be viewed as an essential trait of the ‘regime of truth’ (in the Foudauldian sense) of every police archive. The text is the protocol of a rather experimental and theoretical reflection that accompanies the work in the archives of the State Security. In the first section, the so-called ‘opening of the files’ of the former State Security is thematized as a discursive event revealing the ineliminable excessivity and the ineliminable privation of the official declassification discourse, and hence the danger of it being a repetition of the former ‘regime of truth’. The second section outlines an analytic of the language of violence as defined by the specific swapping of places between violence and language in the signifying function through which a singular ‘sphere of vulnerability’ is invented. The third section deals with the specificity of the police language as an ‘extraordinary’ language (a correlate of the constant ‘state of emergency’ in the meaning of Benjammina and Agamben) that locates meanings in the grey zone between law and violence. The concluding section tries to approach the problem of ‘living on the life of the others’ (chiasm) as a structural trait of being a police informer.
‘THE CONTRADICTIONS OF INHERITANCE’: MECHANISMS OF (NON-)INHERITING AND DISCURSIVE PRACTICES (The case of ethnic identity)
The article presents a possible approach to the analysis of the situation of accepting/transmitting inheritance (in the widest sense) among a migrant group – the one of Bulgarian emigrants to Turkey – and an attempt is made to make explicit its practical logic. To trace the actual ‘sociogenesis’ of the process of inheriting, there must be a double process in its conceptualization: 1) on the one hand, conceptualization of ‘the constitutive dispositions of the habitus’ that are able to generate not only correct actions and practices but also disappointments, tensions, conflict and contradictions, psychological traumas and repressed intentions; 2) on the other hand, conceptualization of the way in which the social order becomes imprinted in the bodies as it ‘collects, channels, reinforces or counteracts psychological processes’. Thus the conceptualization of the process in which, through the figure of ‘inheritance’ social positions and biographic trajectories are ‘eternalized’ in practice, comes out linked to the question how the ‘ontological complicity’ between biographical and social illusio happens when it is possible (as in the case of ‘Bulgarian emigrants’) that their formation is the result of different social conditions. Finally, taking advantage of the specific manner of ‘praxeological understanding’ that permits simultaneously to retain the many points of view and layers in what the respondent ‘testifies’, the article proposes a conception of the contradictoriness itself of the studied agents as heirs. For this purpose, the analysis first dwells on the theoretic justification of the diverse modalities of ‘inheriting’ and then on their empirical verification by the study of specific ‘cases’ that are representative of the studied group.
WALTER BENJAMIN: THE IMAGE AS AN ATTEMPTOF MICROHISTORY – FROM THE GERMANE TRAGIC PLAY TO THE STREETS OF PARIS
This text is about the relationship between image and history in the work of Walter Benjamin and the possible applications of his theory in the field of Microhistory. It begins with the theory of allegory in Origin of germane tragic play and continues discussing the problem in Arcades Project with the idea of dialectical images. The image is an appropriate methodological instrument for analyzing the culture, everyday life and economy as product of social imaginary. Also this method may transform the history into a politic of resistance, which denies the status-quo and the misuses of power. This Marxist approach is combined with motives of Jewish eschatology which allow the definition of the present moment from the point of view of the Messianic.
MEANING AND ENTWURF: HEIDEGGER’S TRACES IN ALFRED SCHUTZ’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF EVERYDAY LIFE
The discussion of the affinity between thinkers usually proceeds from the accomplished fact of their theoretical interchange: either under the form of authorized influence or in the guise of recognized reception. However the case under focus is different, which basically allows the relationship between Alfred Schutz and Martin Heidegger to escape researchers’ attention. In Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt as well as in his “American” works Schutz ardently tries to delimitate his own theory from Heidegger’s thinking. This happens even in points where he owes Heidegger more than is inclined to acknowledge, confining to the inevitable formal references and suggesting the impression of insurmountable critical distance. The present paper is an effort at a parallel “misreading” (Garfinkel) of both thinkers. It is focused on a visible track of Heidegger, which A. Schutz from the very beginning tries to transform into a wide avenue of his own thinking, leading far away from its originator. The questions outlining the trajectory of the article are: Which are Schutz’s reasons to take up Heidegger’s notion “Entwurf” instead of adopting the more unambiguous and seemingly better fitting his master plan concept “Projekt”? Is it not because despite all there remain vivid Heideggerian traces left in the heart of Schutz’sperspective? Where in the final analysis both visions converge and where do they dissociate? Trying to answer these questions the article repeatedly oscillates between Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt, Viennese manuscripts after issuance of the book and some American publications of Alfred Schutz.
OPENING OF THE FORE-STRUCTURE: NEGATIVITY, TIME, POSSIBILITY
The text is focused on a particular period of Heidegger’s work, namely the five years following the publication of Being and Time (1927-1931). The working hypothesis is that during this period the philosopher develops a conception (without, however, thematizing it as such anywhere) that would allow the opening of the fore-structure (Vor-struktur) and its release from the yoke of predetermination through the combination of negativity and possibility. A whole series of concepts is introduced to articulate this opening, which is but the co-articulation of facticity and project. One part of these concepts trace Dasein’s overcoming of facticity (here we find the Vorbild, transcendence, nothingness), while others describe the return of the already opened fore-structure to the entities within-the-world (among the concepts here are the Vorstellen, Vorgehen, orientation). However, the direction that Heidegger’s thought follows, distances him from the productivity of such a conception because of the particular role attributed to the power and the force that probably opened the road to the mistake of his political engagement.
THE PRAXEOLOGICAL TURN AND THE PROBLEM OF ESSENCE(Theses)
The author – following again his critique of Russell’s theory of denoting concepts – raises again the half-forgotten problem of essence as a problem of philosophical logic, and hence also of the logic and methodology of the human sciences. A number of mental experiments are proposed to highlight the advantages that the praxeological turn in logic offers to sociologists and ethnologists, child psychologists and historians, theoreticians of ideology and literary scientists, psychiatrists and historians of mathematics. With these advantages, those scientists, instead of ascribing ‘the logical logic’ (Bourdieu) to agents, will be able to study by reliable methods the properly logical problems of the practice of the agents (methods that Bourdieu’s own theory does not have). According to the author, the theory of essence that he is proposing escapes both the naivety of the tradition descending from Aristotle and the naivety of the denial of that tradition in Russell (and largely in the analytical philosophy in general).
TOWARDS THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE NARRATIVE IN THE HISTORIES OF SOCIOLOGY (METHODOLOGICAL NOTES ON A HISTORICAL CASE)
On the basis of the study and analysis of relatively elementary cases of (re-)construction of the past of German sociology, the text aims at provoking a critical and self-reflexive attitude towards the enterprise of history of sociology, pointing the attention to its political, in the wide sense, functions. The early (re-)constructions of the past of sociology are analysed with the instruments of the Bourdieusian theory of the field, which means most generally in the context of the specific historical conditions under which sociology was practiced and more exactly as actions being the product of interests that were not necessarily reflected. The methodological these, for whose conceptualizing I propose the concept of ‘political economy of reason’, is that the meaning of the enterprise of history of sociology can be adequately understood provided that the narratives of sociology are studied as products of the relation between the specific interests, individual and/or collective, of their authors, i.e. between the positionally determined interests on the one hand and, on the other, the not-always-explicit rules imposed by the structure of the field within which these narratives were produced.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY: THE STORY OF MADELEINE SMITH
This article examines the case of Madeleine Smith, a young middle-class woman who was tried for the murder of her secret lover in 1857. The 250 or so letters which Madeleine wrote to her lover, Pierre-Emile L’Angelier provide us with a window into the day-to-day life of a young bourgeois woman as well as well as revealing the intimate details of her relationship with L’Angelier. The letters offer tantalising glimpses into the interplay between the invisible structures within which lived experience is articulated and how the individual responds to events and experiences. They demonstrate the ways in which dominant discourses shape subjectivity and the cultural forms through which individuals compose their identities and construct their narratives. The article concludes that whilst microhistory can draw on diverse methodologies and theoretical perspectives, including poststructuralism, its unifying theme is the exploration of the scope of agency and choice within the web of intersubjectivity and the matrix of competing discourses in which individuals are enmeshed.
PORTRAYALS OF WOMEN AUTHORS: CONNECTING MICROHISTORY, WOMEN’S HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHICAL WRITING
This article addresses some methodological questions concerning biographical writing from a historical perspective. First part of the article consists of reflections on the so called biographical turn, which can be seen happening in both the academic and the wider context. The place of the individual is reflected in connection with the larger changes in historical research where microhistory and women’s history have been particularly important. It is argued that biographical writing and interest towards life-writing has been important for women writers acting outside of the academic research’s milieu. The second part of the article consists of interpretations of two biographies written by women writers in Finland during the 20th century. Methodological questions concerning with the authenticity and truthfulness are studied through these cases.
COMMUNICABLE EXPERIENCE AND THE HISTORY OF COMBATANTS 1914–1918. AN INDISPENSABLE TROVE OF WITNESSES
During more than 15 years, in both France and Italy, a polemic around soldiers’ witnesses generates lively controversy among the scholars of the history of WWI. The question is quite specific: could weignore this kind of source, if what is at stake is the access to the experience of combatants,in order to understand what enabled some but not others to endure throughout the fifty months of horror and suffering of the trench war? Reminding the need to specify the research categories that we use, this article establishes a typology of the witnesses of combatants. Then, insisting on the uniqueness of witnesses, this text offers a new perspective on this type of document. The historian should view the war as a social stage, being interested more in situations, practices, gestures, states, interactions, than in expressed feelings and convictions. Hence the witness unveils the dominating social norms, informs us on the field of possibilities in a situation of war and puts the microhistorical approach in the service of writing collective history.
THE COERCIONS OF LANGUAGE IN A BIOGRAPHICAL CASE RECoNSTRUCTION
Two narrative interviews with the same respondent, taken in Bulgarian and in Turkish, are interpreted in the context of biographical data analysis. Answers to the following questions are sought for: whether one can perceive significant differences in the biographical Gestalt when the process of remembering and telling the life story takes place in different languages; whether the situation of interviewing generates specific biases and asymmetries, respectively, an unconscious latent coercion or pressure on the biographer to select socially acceptable experiences and attitudes to narrate about; what strategies the biographer uses from the perspective of the present in order to restore the continuity in a professional development that has been interrupted by the pre-1989 restrictive policy of the communist state vis-à-vis Bulgarian Turks.
ON THE SOCIAL LONELINESS OF THE ‘FATHER’S DAUGHTER’ (THE CASE OF DORINA ILIEVA-SIMPSON)
In (post)colonial Mauritius Dorina Ilieva-Simpson (1925–1991) struggles to lay the foundations of another charity aimed at the excluded others (‘superfluous and abject’ in their disabled bodies). Precisely Dorina – viewed as the daughter of the allegedly “fascist writer Nencho Iliev” (in swiftly overtaken by the communist regime Bulgaria), and recognized as the “frivolous and indifferent” Nencho’s daughter (in an agonizing bourgeois Sofia), just she – unaccepted, as a ‘bloody foreigner’, in the white British colonial wives’ society – is the one who fights to change the lives of the ones who are “doomed to a humiliating death” (in that unbearable iciness: a body-not-mine, physically scarred and socially stigmatized). Starting from the fact (‘behind which thousands motives can stand) of an empowering utopian female ideal, this text tries to outline the historicity of an other female subjectivation, generated in the attempt to survive the female class social suffering: the disinheritance of the bourgeois female heir in the public and in the private after the disempowerment of the symbolic efficiency of ‘the name of the father’, and the de-valorisation of her bourgeois legacy. Revealing those nodes of painful female life experience in which perspective the world in its negative present (‘violence and fear’, ‘hypocrisy and non-compassion’, ‘jealousy and social hatred’) becomes visible for Dorina, this text has become an essay of an other female social loneliness (in, as it were, that body-not-mine, the hostage-of-other), in order to outline the social and cultural efficiency of an other social female economy (faith and compassion). Hence it aims at disclosing the other historical witnesses, truths, facts and archives – those of the excluded others – in whose optics the familiar historical past is ‘distorted’ into its unknown other.
THE MATERIALITY OF AFFECTIVE MEMORIES (A comment that has not happened)
This text dwells on a seemingly unimportant but actually symptomatic fact that Snezhana Dimitrova singles out and interprets in her study on the biographical case of Dorina Ilieva-Simpson. Anxious
to preserve every detail of the legacy of her father who was killed by communists immediately after 9 September 1944, Dorina ‘forgets’ precisely the cartoons of her father, drawn made by his best
friend, the talented Alexandar Bozhinov. The text argues that, since she is fixed in the inviolability of her father’s image, his caricatured representations become for her the symbol of a peculiar reversal, of a paradoxical salto mortale, that her life undergoes, of the caricaturing of a whole world that Dorina loved and had precisely because of and through her father.
‘HERE IS A GIRL WHO IS NOT MUTE’: ON A PSYCHOANALYTIC READING OF DORINA NENCHOVA ILIEVA’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY
This text is an attempt to use the ideas of Lacanian clinic in reading the different episodes of the life of Dorina Nenchova Ilieva in bringing to the fore their relation to the unconscious. Dorina’s autobiographic material permits the demarcation of three main themes: Dorina’s subjective position as a woman; the structural necessity that pushes her into oblativity; the adoption of the English language as her main language in the name of adhering to a new Ideal of the Ego. We contemplate the image of a unique and sophisticated woman whose contradictions principally arise from the lack of any signifying element that in the unconscious can tell her what a woman is as well as from an intimate trauma experienced by her, a trauma connected to the symbolic dimension of Dorina’s parental legacy. Due to these circumstances, Dorina tries to make a name for herself in the field of charity so to compensate the wounds that life has inflicted on her. In so doing, she engraves the everlasting name of a Bulgarian woman on the history of Mauritius.