Issue 1, 2005

Николай Аретов, Оксиденталистки страхове и комплекси или един плодотворен провал
Nikolay Aretov, Occidentalists' Fears, or On One Fruitful Failure


The new interdisciplinary conference of the Bulgarian Society for 18th Century Studies, co-organized by the Centre for Advanced Studies, was dedicated to Occidentalism. The topic was specifically formulated to elucidate the (biased) 'Eastern' notions about the 'West' and to explain the neologism so offensive for the ear of the purist.The issues related to the debate on 'Orientalism' (introduced by Edward Said's famous book and taken up by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit) are of special interest for Bulgarian and Balkan scholars in the humanities. In a world where the center seems to define the production and distribution of knowledge, the peripheries are extremely sensitive to the mechanisms of this domination. Yet there is a reverse side of this problem - just as the West is biased in its treatment of 'the Orient' and tries to impose its domination through literary and scientific texts, the East tries to solve the problems of its communication with the West by building its own (analogous) mental and verbal constructions. They are comparatively less studied worldwide and practically ignored in Bulgaria, even in the context of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The conference on Occidentalism tried to outline the scope of this phenomenon.

The Bulgarian Society for 18th Century Studies demonstrated a long-term interest in issues like image studies and the image of the other, in the ways modernity alters people's mindsets, or the problems of national and regional identities. Therefore we decided to dedicate our annual conference to the nature of Occidentalism and its Bulgarian, Balkan and East European dimensions.

The topic provoked great professional interest. Many potential participants from Bulgaria and abroad noted the good timing and the importance of such discussion. Earlier the website of the Society posted links to some basic publications on Occidentalism. Despite the efforts of the organizers to focus the discussion, both the proposals and the reports sometimes strayed from the central set of problems. Many participants opted for their own implicit interpretation of the unwonted term, which varied from some partially explained synonyms of 'modernization', 'westernization', 'the West', etc. to the more convenient notion of 'images of the West' or some part of its parts, e.g. Italy, which allowed the participants to use ready-made texts from reception studies and other similar academic fields. A central problem, doubtlessly deserving special attention, proved to be the 'internal' criticism of Western culture, occasionally expressed through a fictional 'oriental' viewpoint, one of the most eloquent examples being Montesquieu's 'Persian Letters'.

Perhaps this could be partially explained by the conviction that Bulgarian, Balkan and East-European culture is not really characterized by Occidentalism. Many speakers implied or explicitly stated that Bulgaria and the Balkans have always been a natural part of Europe. In this context, however, this nominally correct statement poses a multifaceted problem. It contains a measure of Eurocentrism and the implication that what is not European must be imperfect, incomplete, insufficient and derivative. This explains the unwillingness to focus on Occidentalism, which would imply a certain distancing from the West or would at least pinpoint some non-European elements of our culture.

Such an attitude was not totally ungrounded. It was amplified by the abundant pro-European rhetoric - mere days after Bulgaria signed the contract for its accession to the European Union. Yet this was hardly the only reason for the weak interest to phenomena of the late 20th and early 21st century. The participants felt much more comfortable discussing the 19th and early 20th centuries, or talking about the Orientalism of foreign observers and about the Orientalist tendencies in Bulgarian and Balkan culture. The intertwinement of the Orientalist and Occidentalist discourses was repeatedly commented on. Far trickier proved to be the interstitial, hybrid character of Balkan cultures. Many participants drew upon Maria Todorova's famous thesis; the observations of concrete phenomena led to similar conclusions.

The phrase 'a fruitful failure' in the title was used quite intentionally to continue the provocation in the attempt to discover 'occidentalist' tendencies in one's own culture. I believe that even when we don't or won't discover such tendencies, the conceptual field of Occidentalism still contributes to the reflection on our own culture and the world around us. Thus the real debate at the conference was actually fruitful, even though the utopian attempt to reach a consensus failed.

Раймонд Детрез, "Погърчване" и "поевропейчване" през Възраждането
Raymond Detrez, 'Hellenization' and 'Europeanization' in Bulgaria during the National Revival Period


During the National Revival period, Bulgarians came into contact with the West and created for themselves an image of the Occident mainly through the intermediation of the Greek economic, social and intellectual elite. Although criticism was as a rule embedded in general benevolence and even enthusiasm for the West-which was perceived as an alternative to Ottoman autocracy-, it appears that obviously as a result of the increasing reluctance with regard to Greek language and cultural influence, some Bulgarians were inclined to reject Europeanness together with Greekness. There is evidence of such an attitude in, for example, Dobri Voynikov's well-known comedy Krivorazbranata civilizacija (The Phoney Civilization, 1871), in which the Greek Margaridi, representing Western lifestyle and moral values, is the object of vicious satire. In our contribution, we will go deeper into this embarrassing relationship between Hellenization (as an aspect of urbanisation) and Europeanization (in the sense of adopting the moral values of Enlightenment), paying attention also to the question to what extent Hellenization was rejected because of the incompatibility of Enlightenment with the traditional moral values imposed by religion and the patriarchal society.

Десислава Лилова, Европа като колониален господар: дебатът за железниците във възрожденския печат
Dessislava Lilova, Europe as a Colonial Master: The Railways Debate in the Bulgarian Press from the National Revival Period


The present paper aims to examine the debate instigated by the railway construction across the areas of the Ottoman Empire populated by Bulgarians in the 1870s. This was not the first anti-European debate in the Bulgarian public sphere, but it was the first one to question the very core of the modern idea of progress. Questioning however does not necessarily mean rejecting, since the main issue was the unequal economic status of the participants rather than the technological progress per se. The opponents of the railway project considered it a form of colonization and pleaded for its postponement in order to allow the Bulgarians to acquire economic power. Two major results could be outlined: 1) a shift from utopian to anti-utopian image of Europe; 2) an ideological project to enter modernity without or even against the will of Europe.

Бисера Дакова, Кратък речник на Ориента (или за непроявения дебат между Иван Богоров и Добри Войников)
Bisera Dakova, A Brief Dictionary of the Orient (Or on the unrevealed debate between Ivan Bogorov and Dobri Voynikov)


The study aims at illustrating the contradictory processibility in postulating the own - the stages of its heterogeneity, polemical tension and disunity. National ideology is not a construct imported just from the outside to fill a blank space; it is rather a result of the transformation and mitigation of previous, established, existant visions of self-knowledge and self-experience. The axiologies of the Bulgarian reveal their weak, debatable and downright vacillating character in a period which is usually thought to lay and use them synonymously and axiomatically. The national conception of the world appears to be a creation of local stereotypes with different accents and semantics (D. Voynikov), or, on the contrary, a creation of surmounted behavioral prejudices following the Europeanizing / Christian / Slav model (I. Bogorov).

After the translation of „Janissaries" and „The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" (1849) I. Bogorov is no longer apologetic in his accounts of the Bulgarian, but gives a new critical meaning to it in the light of the „West-East" and „barbarity-civilization" oppositions, which structure both of the translated texts. Noticing the chaos, decentralization and disunity of the „Bulgarian places", Bogorov actually discovers the Orient in these territories, spots it in the way it is put in „Janissaries" - as an embodiment of the Janissarian / fanatical / antediluvian-ritual / uncommunicative-concealed. Whereas the civilization he would like to see adopted in this „places" understood as comfort is shifted to „The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" (personal hygiene, functional home order, social life, enterprise, impulse to domesticate people and things).

The characters in Voynikov's comedy „The Phoney Civilization" (1871) to a great extent look predetermined by the cultural visions of Bogorov that are shared in „A few days walk around the Bulgarian places" (1868). They could be perceived as their personified discredit. Through the naive-pathetic rejection of Bogorov's notions and through the mechanical return to the „simple" identity of the deux ex machina principle Voynikov lays the national identity as a unified and unique reality which can not be avoided. The dominants of the Bulgarian identity main body however look strikingly similar to the dominating specificities of the Orient fixed by Bogorov in „A Few Days...". In Voynikov they already function as a „trademark" of the Bulgarian. In that sense the Orient's fundamental categories which Bogorov assimilates through the translation of „Janissaries" (the female shyness and hiding from the world, the closed home, the standstill, etc.) are seen in Voynikov's comedy as founding pillars of Bulgarian identity, while the typical oriental vices (rakiya and tobacco abuse) are freed from blame, seen in the light of the comical. Resembling the dictionary conspectus the present study attempts to cover a few dominant symbols of the Orient that are interpreted negatively or positively by the two writers (naturally referring to other authors and texts of the Bulgarian national revival as well). It goes from the abstract (shame, home, road) to the concreteness of life, since it is exactly in the macrosymbols of life such as needle, rakiya, tobacco, clothing that the polemical correspondence of Voynikov to the travel-writing of Bogorov is most distinguishable, as well as what becomes apparent is the conservative ideology upon which „The Phoney Civilization" lies - in fact a deformed-travestied projection of Bogorov's cultural pretensions to the „Bulgarian places".

Надежда Андреева, Европа в лириката на Асен Разцветников
Nadezhda Andreeva, Europe in Asen Raztzvetnikov's Lyric Poetry


The life and the works of Asen Raztzvetnikov testify to a person who is deeply rooted in the nativeness and widely open to the civilization that we call European. The relations engendered by this openness are the result of the natural penetration of elements which construct the European cultural field; they are genetic because the author is a product of that field, and secondary, as far as he consciously adopts influences and revises them in his own way. Being subjective by nature and objective of necessity, this revision bears the stamp of a unique individuality, which is bound by the social characterization of his creative environment's national tradition. The image of Europe in Asen Raztzvetnikov's Lyric Poetry is a small part of the hard distinguishable situation of his purposeful and unconscious communication with the West. During the period that comes to an end with the publishing of „Mountain Eves" (in the mid 1930s) this image gets formed and completed as a sign with a substantial view of life significance.

Албена Вачева, "Умният път е: с тяхното оръжие да се въоръжим…" Модерният дебат за "родно" и "чуждо" през 30-те години на XX век
Albena Vacheva, The shrewd way is to arm ourselves with their arms: Bulgarian modern debate about native and nonnative art


The article is a theoretical examination of the modern Bulgarian vision about West (Europe) as a legitimizing instrument in the native/nonnative art debate in the Bulgarian cultural context after World War I. The analysis is focused on critical and culture-scrutinizing articles published in Bulgarian periodicals in the 1930s which display the ways of perception/resistance to the west European cultural standards. Studying the relationships between native (taken as cultural traditions) and European (understood as „high norms" and criteria for commensurability) the paper discusses the parameters of the above-mentioned debate, which played an important role in Bulgarian cultural life in the next years and became an important issue of Bulgarian national self-vision and self-perception.

Уенди Брейсуел, Ориентализъм, оксидентализъм и космополитизъм: Балкански пътеписи за Европа
Wendy Bracewell, Orientalism, Occidentalism and Cosmopolitanism: Balkan Travel Writings on Europe


Travel writing's manipulations of Orient and Occident for a whole variety of purposes may have reinforced the concept of an East/West dichotomy dividing up the world, but especially by applying these labels within the writer's own society they have also helped detach notions of 'the West' from any geographical reference point. The Orient can exist within the very heart of Western Europe, its presence marked by burek, or the state of the toilets, while the Occident is everywhere by now. In this writing, 'East' and 'West' become the coordinates of a purely moral map, rather than a physical one, something which at least implies the possibility of choice and change. Similarly, cosmopolitan travellers may have denied the salience of the East/West divide in ways that only allowed a few to escape, but even such limited re-mappings of the world invite readers to imagine themselves as equal members of a more inclusive community. It's a starting point - modest, but real. Travel writing from the Balkans, in the end, is a hybrid genre in more that one way. It has perpetuated systems of difference that operate at the expense of others, but at the same time it has opened up different ways of seeing the world, mixing up margins and centres, positive and negative, both to reinforce and to challenge the travellers' own societies' social and political practices.

Лари Улф, Духът на 1776: Полската и далматинската декларация за философска независимост
Larry Wolff, The Spirit of 1776: Polish and Dalmatian Declarations of Philosophical Independence


The article compares some texts and cultural phenomena from Eastern Europe or East-Central Europe, which would correlate cultural manifestations in the region with the distant transatlantic developments emphasizing the principle and agenda of national independence. In 1776 Ignacy Krasicki published „what can be called the first Polish novel", The Adventures of Mikolaj Doswiadczynski, Written by Himself (Mikolaja Doswiadczynskiego Przypadki, przez niegoz samego opisane), and Giovanni Lovrich, also known as Ivan Lovric, from Venetian Dalmatia, published in Venice his only literary work, Observations on Various Parts of the Voyage in Dalmatia of Signor Abbé Alberto Fortis (Osservazioni di Giovanni Lovrich sopra diversi pezzi del viaggio in Dalmazia del Signor Abate Alberto Fortis).

In the intellectual tensions of the Enlightenment, in its hierarchical rankings and resentments by language and culture, Polish and French, Dalmatian and Italian, it is possible to discern some aspects of national self-assertion, a kindred spirit of 1776, within the literary forms of the ancient regime in its first crisis. Furthermore, the consciousness of foreign domination among Poles and Dalmatians in 1776, in conjunction with a sensitivity to foreign literary condescension, provoked certain common cultural patterns of response, and even some inklings of a regional resemblance that would eventually be summed up in the idea of Eastern Europe.

Лийла Ганди, Един сложен Оксидентализъм: колониално желание и разочарование
Leela Gandhi (La Trobe University), A Complicated Occidentalism: Colonial Desire and Disappointment in V. S. Naipaul


In recent years the question of V. S. Naipaul's relationship to England has begun to complicate his hitherto negative reception within the postcolonial academy. While, in the 1980's, a generation of colonial discourse analysis-inspired critics were able to condemn him unequivocally as an apologist for empire, a new recuperation reveals Sir Vidia as a casualty of imperialism; a man more victim than collaborator. Something of this, albeit still incipient, shift in attitude belongs to the changing nature of postcolonial critique itself. If, following the example of Edward Said's Orientalism, the '80's were preoccupied with imperial constructions or representations of the non-West, a new tendency seeks a reversal of the imperial gaze, asking what colonised cultures and their travelling/writing figures made of England and empire when they arrived as emigrants, expatriates, travellers, in the 'mother country'. Each of these perspectives, as we will see, offers a variant, if not opposing, assessment of Naipaul and his oeuvre.

In the intellectual tensions of the Enlightenment, in its hierarchical rankings and resentments by language and culture, Polish and French, Dalmatian and Italian, it is possible to discern some aspects of national self-assertion, a kindred spirit of 1776, within the literary forms of the ancient regime in its first crisis. Furthermore, the consciousness of foreign domination among Poles and Dalmatians in 1776, in conjunction with a sensitivity to foreign literary condescension, provoked certain common cultural patterns of response, and even some inklings of a regional resemblance that would eventually be summed up in the idea of Eastern Europe.

Радослава Илчева, „По дрехите посрещат..." или въшният вид в културологичната антитеза Изток - Запад
Radoslava Ilcheva, „Handsome is, handsome does", Or Outward Appearance in the Cultural Antithesis East - West


For centuries Russia perceived the Europeans mainly through their outward appearance. Throughout the Middle Ages the foreign clothing was a serious and even a prime obstacle (together with language) in the act of the communication between different nations; it was not even a standing jest, but a target of a total and furious denial. To a considerable extent it provoked an undisguised hostility and modeled the negative Russian notions of the West. Placed in the paradigm of the confessional incompatibility between the Orthodoxy and the „Latin heresy" of a Westerner, it turns out to be a signal for a more serious danger of a cultural invasion. Since it is a sign of belonging to a world both „horizontally and vertically" opposite to the Holy Rus, the devil in the Old Russian texts appears sometimes dressed as a Pole, other times as a German.

In this context the „Handsome is, handsome does" saying implicitly reveals the reception of the Self. The obsession with clothing and respectively with outward appearance was so strong, that for centuries the personal duality of the Other was ignored. With the development of trade and diplomatic relations with the European neighbors, these tendencies did not weaken, but sharpened and reached their climax on the borderline between the Old and the New Age (late 17th - early 18th century). During this critical and dramatic period of the traditional Russian mentality the outward appearance of the Westerner acquired impressive dimensions with its conflict, which reflects in some way even the present days.

Пенка Данова, Един български прочит на "Нощна песен на странстващ овчар в Азия" от Джакомо Леопарди
Penka Danova, A Bulgarian Reading of Giacomo Leopardi's „Nocturnal Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia"


In the author's opinion the debate about the presence of Orientalism and/or Occidentalism in the Bulgarian tradition „will not happen". Not only because our culture remains neutral regarding the globalizing „ism's". During the Romanticism some European intellectuals were insensitive to the Modernity, to its dictates and fashions.

Such is the case of Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1827), an original Romanticist spirit who tried to place the eternal spiritual values above those of his contemporaries. „Nocturnal Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia" is a poetic work about the Moon, the life, the loneliness and pain. The wandering shepherd is not the „good savage", but the philosopher who calmly and resignedly contemplates the life caravan, understood as mankind's destiny. Asia is not the poet's refuge in which he would seek peace from the tiredness and lack of understanding of his contemporaries. It is rather an imaginary space, the boundlessness of which gives a hint of the insignificance of everyday vanity. In general, nature against artificiality.

Enclosed is the Bulgarian translation of the poem.

Николай Аретов, Що е оксидентализъм и има ли той почва у нас? Предварителни тезиси в търсене на литературните аспекти на проблема
Nikolay Aretov, What is Occidentalism and does it have ground in our country?
Preliminary theses in search of the literary aspects of the issue


The idea of the Other is a crucial part of the own identity. People imagine the Other in different ways, very often he/she is presented as a dangerous Enemy. Mythical thinking, which is alive even nowadays uses different tools to name and imagine the Other and to master it. Edward Said's well-known book introduced the term Orientalism in the international humanities, and with it he designated „a way of coming to terms with the Orient that it based on the Orient's place in European Western experience", one specific „style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between „the Orient" and (most the time) „the Occident". The work ends with a warring

Above all, I hope to have shown my reader that the answer to Orientalism is not Occidentalism. No former „Oriental" will be conformed by the thought that having been an Oriental himself he is likely - too likely - to study new „Orientals" - or „Occidentals" - on his own making. If the knowledge of Orientalism has any meaning, it is in being a reminder of the seductive degradation of knowledge, of any knowledge, anywhere, at any time. Now perhaps more than before.

Said knew that this was not just a potential threat. Occidentalism not only exists; its effects are extremely pernicious. The most demonic of them befell on September 11, 2001. Ancient mental constructs and psychological trends, realized in different texts - secular and religious, literary, philosophical, journalistic and so on - lay beneath the terrorist acts. It appeared that not only the West is biased against the „Orient" and tries to dominate through literary and scholar texts, but the „Orient" reacts in a similar way and tries to deal with the problems of its relations with the West by building (analogical?) mental and linguistic constructions. In some cases Occidentalism may become a positive strategy, as in Hassan Hanafi's Introduction to the Science of Occidentalism (1992).

The phenomenon of Occidentalism finds its annalists among the politicians, journalists and scholars. Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit are the most famous among them. Their book Occidentalism: the West in the Eyes of Its Enemies provoked serious debates and became a bestseller. Although the two terms (becoming titles of popular books) were constructed in obviously the same manner, the two phenomena are not entirely analogical, and Buruma and Margalit do not refer to Said. It is disputable whether Orientalism is the earlier one (according to Buruma, Islamism on which he focused is a modern phenomenon with western roots); but for a long period of time Orientalism was more powerful and was backed by and realized in the Western colonialist institutions and the Western academic studies of the „East", that were more elaborated than the Eastern studies of the „West". On the other hand, Occidentalism is to some extend a reaction to the Orientalism and the related politics, military actions, colonial institutions and academia. Occidentalism appears to be more radical, more active. Its roots and reasons could be traced in quite different mental and spiritual spheres; their common ground is the belief in the own uniqueness and the hostility of the Other. Scholars find strongholds of the Occidentalism in the reactions to the universalism of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, in some variations of the Japanese Shintoism, connected with imperial ideology, in pan-ideologies (Pan-Slavism among them), in different variations of fascism, in Stalinism, etc.

Avishai Margalit and Ian Buruma highlighted several [four] „features of Occidentalism":

  • Hatred of the City and urban civilization, symbolized by the fabled tower of Babylon; the state and modern civilization with its attributes (literature, films, pop music, advertisement), separation between the private and the public domain, commercialism;
  • Critique of the bourgeois civilization, its commercialism and addiction to safety and comfort, and lack of heroism and revolutionary gestures;
  • Rejection of Bourgeois Reason, rationality and science, opposed to irrational notions such as spirit, race, blood and soil, etc.;
  • Denial of feminism, seen as giving too much freedom to women. As a whole this is a rejection of modernity, which was associated with the West. The result is an absolutely negative image of the West, containing „a set of attributes, such as arrogance, feebleness, greed, depravity, and decadence, which are invoked as typically Western, or even American, characteristics".

The conclusion of Avishai Margalit and Ian Buruma was:

There is no clash of civilizations. Most religions, especially the monotheistic ones, have the capacity to harbor the anti-Western poison. And varieties of secular fascism can occur in all cultures.

* * *

The question of the usability of the term Occidentalism in the context of Bulgarian, Balkan or East European culture is a big challenge for the scholars. Other challenge is the discovering of Occidentalism in these cultures.

The present paper argues that if Occidentalism is a form of demonizing, then the Other that comes from the West Occidentalism could be traced in Bulgarian culture as well. It takes critical place in the national mythology, in the images of the other presented in texts which deal with abductions, seductions and other plots concerning sexual or matrimonial relations with foreigners; in nostalgic poems, written abroad; in retro-utopia visions of the traditional life; in anti-Catholic pamphlets; in polemics with foreigners; in travel notes, etc. On the other hand this paper argues that in the Bulgarian context Occidentalism is often mixed with Orientalism. Both phenomena are ambivalent and exported from other cultures.

Витана Костадинова, Западни визии
Vitana Kostadinova, Western Visions


The understanding of Occidentalism underlying this presentation does not concur with Ian Buruma's definition: „Something else is going on, which my co-author, Avishai Margalit, and I call Occidentalism (the title of our new book): a war against a particular idea of the West…" (1) I would rather use the term in the manner put forward by James Carrier in his preface to Occidentalism: Images of the West, as „the representation of the West by Western subjects" (which goes hand in hand with projecting the Orient as the Other), and „that constructed by non-Western subjects" (2). Lindstrom's distinction (Carrier 1995) is even more useful; according to him „Occidentalism" should be used only in regard to „the discourse among Orientals about the West", whereas „the self-discourse of Westerners" is called „auto-Occidentalism".

As an illustration of those visions of the West I would like to offer a parallel between the Bulgarian projections of the West in the early 20th century and the auto-images of the West as constructed by the texts translated into Bulgarian at the time. A sample of representations of the West in Byron's Don Juan, translated in prose in 1919, reveals the author's play with foreign stereotypes resulting in an ambivalent vision of Englishness in the text as seen from both the inside and the outside. Byron's juxtaposition of East and West in Don Juan will be compared to the different levels of contrasting the Orient with the Occident in the Bulgarian press of the period - ranging from publications of literary criticism, such as „Eastern and Western Art" in the Vezni journal, to the stereotyped images of individual West-European nations.

As a follow-up, with a representative selection of data, the analysis of the Bulgarian images of the West could be associated with the processes of Bulgarian national identity's construction.

Саня Велкова, Самоидентификация между Изтока и Запада: гръцките характеристики на балканските феномени в края на XIX и първата половина на XX век
Sanya Velkova, Self-identification between the East and the West: the Greek characteristics of the Balkan phenomenon between 1870 and 1950


The text examines the issue of „situating“ the Greeks’ national self-identification between the historical past’s understanding belonging to the East, and the historical present/future corresponding with the West.

The sources, on which the paper is based, are original texts by philosophers, historians and intellectuals from the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, as well as studies and commentaries by contemporary culturologists, historians and philologists. The second kind of sources is new, unknown and often radically re-evaluates and re-arranges the schemes and constructions of the late 19th century.

The spatial and temporal „stretching“ of the topic allows the pinpointing of characteristic moments in its development, an outline of the common points, as well as a new interpretation of the set of problems related to Occidentalism.