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Rewriting Academia

The Development of the Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of Continental Europe

Edited By Renate Haas

From a historical perspective, the full academic establishment of Women’s and Gender Studies is a radical and far-reaching innovation. Decisive impulses have come from the United States, the European unification and globalization. European Women’s and Gender Studies are therefore intimately linked to the English language and Anglophone cultures, as the near untranslatability of «gender» shows. In this volume 25 experts present surveys for their countries with a historical and European contextualization and offer fundamental insights not only for English Studies but also various other disciplines.
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The Other Frontier: Anglicist Gender Studies in Bulgaria

Milena Katsarska

The Other Frontier: Anglicist Gender Studies in Bulgaria

1.  Signposting the Bulgarian Context

Historically, there are several features of the Bulgarian context which have a bearing on a discussion of the development of Women’s and Gender Studies locally. These features frame the context in its particularity given specific stages of development, but also – and at the same time – impinge on chartering connections across the territorial ‘anchoring’ of the issue to this particular geopolitical location by projecting relations and similarities across nation-state borders to historically, politically and culturally constructed spaces such as the Balkans, South East Europe, Europe and beyond. At this junction, I am simply signposting them to return to each in more detail in the subsequent sections of the chapter.

In the second half of the 19th century, when the ‘women’s question’ with regard to education was posed, the present territory of Bulgaria was within the borders of the Ottoman Empire and en route to its Liberation in 1878 with subsequent Unification between the Principality of Bulgaria and the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia in 1885. Therefore, both ‘education’ and ‘women’ were tightly linked to the ideology of the local national Revival and the repertoire of emancipated roles that would assist in the construction of Bulgarian national identity in the 19th century mould, which placed emphasis on ethnicity, language, religion, territorial unity, heritage and kinship. While in the first decades of the 20th century this project of decisive national consolidation continued, the women’s agenda broadened to address issues shared across borders during the First Women’s Movement. These were, among others, access to and equality in education, access to professions in the public sphere, universal suffrage. In terms of the class character of the movement and its respective paths to emancipation and equality, they were addressed from a broad spectrum of political stances: from bourgeois philanthropy through social-democratic and leftist, socialist ideas to nationalist such. Further on, like a ← 357 | 358 → number of East European contexts post WW2, the Bulgarian context was characterized by a period of setting up and consolidating national state communism between the 1940s and 1989, which undoubtedly impinged on the economic, social, political, and cultural reality and aspirations of women in the country in a complex – and often contradictory – manner. To mention just one salient feature of this stage which has a bearing on my subsequent discussion here, this period involved top-to-bottom centralized policies, as well as their legislative expressions, for egalitarianism in the public sphere. The discourses which this period produced however, as local and global feminist historians note, are not straightforwardly uniform or non-problematically and positively in tune with the 20th century feminist agenda, yet they undoubtedly influenced deeply the development of Women’s and Gender Studies in post-communist countries, the institutionalization of which often – as in the case of Bulgaria – is located in the aftermath of the period.

With a view to the Bulgarian context, the post-1989 period of a transitioning society from national state communism to market liberal democracy has generated an acceleratory (a catching-up) and liberatory discourse, not least with regard to the ‘inception’ and institutionalization of Gender Studies. Along such lines, the 1990s often defined themselves as decisively delineated from the previous ‘era’, as ‘anchoring back’ to the pre-1940s period (bridging a ‘historical aberration’), as ‘creating anew or from nothing’, as ‘depoliticizing’ the public sphere including education (meaning doing away with centralized and top-to-bottom ideological prescriptions), as ‘opening’ to Europe and the world at large – all these being tropes which have a bearing on how women reconstructed and renegotiated their social and political realities and articulated the contemporary feminist agenda, as well as how the institutional space and the imperatives of Gender Studies were constructed in the country. In the second phase of the transitional period, with a view to EU accession negotiations and Bulgaria becoming an EU member state as of 2007, economically, socio-politically, culturally and educationally the Bulgarian context is inflected by EU-wide policies and legal frameworks with regard to our case of specific focus here: the position of women in society – reckonings with the present and articulating the agenda of the future. ← 358 | 359 →

2.  Glimpses from History: Women’s Movement(s) and Women’s Organizations

As in a number of other countries, the Bulgarian women’s movement had its beginnings in the spheres of education and social work in the middle of the 19th century. The first secular schools for girls were founded in 1841 within the then borders of the Ottoman Empire and by 1878 – the establishment of an independent Bulgarian state – their number reached 90. In this period of national Revival, the local inflection of the 18th century French model of women’s citizenship through patriotic motherhood dominated the scene. Only sporadic male voices among the emergent Bulgarian national intelligentsia, such as Lyuben Karavelov, advocated for equality in education rather than for following the ‘two-sex model’ in constructing school curricula. Prior to the Liberation the only profession open to women was that of teacher. According to Daskalova and Nazarska (2006: 7) their number was approximately 400 by 1878. The first women’s associations of philanthropic or educational nature were set up in the 1850s. Some of these organizations established the first international contacts, especially in the aftermath of the April uprising in 1876, whereby Bulgarian provinces within the Ottoman Empire attracted the attention of the foreign press, namely, through letters these associations addressed to, for example, Lady Strangford and the Society of Edinburgh Ladies, as well as to the Ladies’ Branch of the Russian Slavophil Committee in Moscow, among other diplomats and missionaries.

Access to education remained a stable line on the feminist agenda for a number of decades and it is worth mentioning two significant dates in this regard. In the post-Liberation period school education for boys and girls was equalized – in terms of duration and content – by a law adopted in 1897, which opened and further consolidated the argument for university admission of women. Sofia University granted this access in 1901, which is when the first 12 women were admitted at the then Faculty of History and Philology (Vesselinov 2008: 23). Initially continuing the line of the national Revival philanthropic makeup of women’s associations, The Bulgarian Women’s Union (BWU) was established in the same year, led by the Bulgarian teacher, writer, translator and journalist Anna ← 359 | 360 → Karima.1 Its course soon became oriented towards equal civic and political rights, issues shared across geopolitical borders. BWU’s public voice was captured by the periodical Zhenski glas (Women’s Voice). ‘Equality’ entered the agenda of the BWU in 1907 and the Union upheld an above-class principle. It addressed primarily issues of middle-class Bulgarian women even if its membership included women peasants and workers reflecting the primarily agrarian constituency of the country on its way to industrialization and urbanization. By the 1940s this Union had over 14 000 members in 170 women’s societies (Daskalova and Nazarska 2006: 14). The second mainstream organization of the time, more leftist in its political orientation, the Union Ravnopravie (Equal Rights) or Sayuz na naprednichavite zheni (Union of Progressive Women) – a small but firmly suffragist formation – was founded in 1909 by some of the initial members of BWU. In the aftermath of the Second International, these two Unions were the main drivers towards unrestricted suffrage.

Even if facing mostly patriarchal and traditional opposition, rather than exclusion from voting by constitution or electoral law, Bulgarian women gained the right to vote considerably later. In 1937 first ‘mothers in a legal marriage’ were granted the right to vote in local elections, and this later became extended to ‘married, divorced and widowed’ women for parliamentary elections in 1938. It is clear that these legal provisions remained far from achieving unrestricted women’s suffrage in that they based active voting rights on women as male dependents and, additionally, did not provide for women to be elected. As Daskalova and Nazarska observe

The situation of the Bulgarian women’s suffrage movement resembled that of other ‘late-comers’ such as France and Switzerland, where universal male suffrage had been proclaimed at an earlier date – unlike the situation in Germany and Britain, where class was a barrier to suffrage for men as well. Women in the latter countries got the vote soon after universal male suffrage had been passed. (2006: 15)

The issue of universal women’s suffrage in Bulgaria remained on the agenda in the next years, most notably actively upheld by the section of Women Lawyers ← 360 | 361 → within the Bulgarian Association of University Women (BAUW), who also fought for women lawyers’ rights to effectively practice law, an issue which remained unresolved until the end of WW2, while women lawyers in other Balkan countries gained full professional rights in the course of the 1920s.

Before pausing in more detail on the above-mentioned Bulgarian Association of University Women (BAUW), which was established in 1924, for reasons that appear key to the inception and institutionalization of Gender Studies in the country in the 1990s (i.e. about 70 years later), let me briefly outline the international liaisons of the First Women’s Movement in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Women’s movement is the first from the region to enter the international arena in 1908, as Bulgarian representatives participate in the congresses of the International Alliance of Women and the International Council of Women in Amsterdam and Geneva, respectively. Similarly early on, Bulgarian women joined the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919 and became actively involved in attending WILPF congresses and schools, as well as hosting one such in 1930 led by Ekaterina Karavelova and Vassilka Kerteva. Among its international activities, in the 1930s the Bulgarian section of WILPF initiated the setting up of a Committee for the defense of Jews in Germany.

Capitalizing on decades of achieved access to higher education, both locally and abroad, as well as advancement, albeit limited, in public office, women university graduates set up the afore-mentioned Bulgarian Association of University Women, which spanned across generations of educated local feminists who shared mostly liberal ideals. This organization comprised four sections – Women Lawyers, Women Artists, Women Writers and Women Students – some of which remained in place for the first decade of regime change to national state communism, meanwhile undergoing leadership change and political and economic transformations towards nationalization, centralization, establishing communist party control, etc. to be dissolved in the 1950s. The history of this Bulgarian women’s organization is particularly well-documented by contemporary feminist historians,2 because it is seen as simultaneously the symbolic and material ← 361 | 362 → location of the inception of Gender Studies in Bulgaria with the restoration of the BAUW in 1990 by predominantly Sofia-based university women.3 Notwithstanding the ideological choice exercised in the act of ‘restoring’ in name the BAUW, the activities of which focused mostly on urban middle-class intellectual elites in a liberal mould, as that act which would define the path undertaken by Bulgarian feminists in the transitioning period of the 1990s, the pre-WW2 period presented an ideologically more diverse picture with regard to the feminist agenda, a picture which was shared across European contexts and beyond.

Socialist ideas informed the Bulgarian context since the last decade of the 19th century and socialist newspapers, such as Savremenen Pokazatel (Contemporary Barometer) and Novo Vreme (New Times), addressed the ‘woman’s question’ within the paradigm of an imminent socialist revolution. While women socialists notably led by Vela Blagoeva initially joined the Bulgarian Women’s Union in 1901, they soon separated from it objecting to its proclaimed above-class principle and set up the periodical Zhenski Trud (Women’s Labour), which articulated their stance of speakers on behalf of women workers. This attempt at consolidating a women’s movement in a socialist mould was also regarded as ‘separatist’ from the point of view of men-led socialist organizations, especially those that shifted in the direction of ‘narrow’ socialism (i.e. under the influence of Bolshevism) in the country. Nevertheless, in 1919 the former clubs of socialist women set up Women Communists, their public voices being captured by the newspapers Ravenstvo (Equality) and Rabotnichka (Woman Worker) negotiating their position between ‘sex-neutral’ (class-based) and ‘women specific’ concerns, and activists such as Koika Tineva, Tina Kirkova and Stela Blagoeva took part in the Communist International. The other leftist organization at the time, established in 1921 and affiliated with the international women’s socialist movement, sided with the ‘broad’ socialists’ organizations. While the two leftist organizations shared the goal of ‘liberating women from any kind of material and moral authority’, as cited in Daskalova and Nazarska (2006: 34), they had divergent ideas as to the means by which this could be accomplished. Women social democrats advocated equal pay, state measures ← 362 | 363 → for improving health and hygiene, state social care for the unemployed and poor, as well as access to education and cultural facilities for the lowest strata of society. Facing the scrutiny of the state, the regime of which periodically banned communist organizations for ‘anti-state activities’, women social democrats balanced between dissociating themselves from women communists and delineating their demands from the BWU, which they saw as ‘separatist’ from the world-wide social democratic movement arguing that the subordinate position of women was inherently located in the capitalist system. Their public outlets were the newspapers Blagodenstvie (Prosperity) and, later on, Nedovolnata (Unsatisfied). In other words, in the interwar period the Bulgarian women’s movement echoed the complex web of issues and tensions which characterized the movement internationally and formed alliances with diverse counterparts abroad according to shared ideologies.

The establishment of the communist regime post-1944 led to the gradual centralization of Bulgarian women’s organizations and their placement under state control, together with the subsequent change of leadership. Tsola Dragoicheva, an activist in the partisan anti-fascist resistance and at the head of Fatherland Front in the 1940s, also a Politburo member for many years, assumed the responsibility of chairing the Bulgarian Women’s Committee. Another prominent figure of the time, Rada Todorova, was in charge of the newly established Bulgarian Popular Women’s Union,4 which opened its membership to the masses and worked until 1950 towards achieving mass literacy among women, full access to education and employment. As representatives of the two organizations Dragoicheva and Todorova established the early international relations of the Bulgarian women’s movement within the frame of Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF), one of the most prominent global networks for women’s solidarity throughout the 20th century.

Even if the Stalinist period in the Soviet bloc countries affected Bulgaria as well to the extent of dissolving in the 1950s specifically women-oriented organizations seen as redundant in the class-based articulation of social and economic issues to be addressed under the new dispensation, these ← 363 | 364 → organizations were ‘restored’ in the 1960s in manner of the Committee of Bulgarian Women (CBW), established with a decision5 of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party on 21 May 1968 and headed since (until 1990) by Elena Lagadinova, another member of the anti-Nazi resistance and a genetic engineer at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. One of the primary incentives for reviewing ‘gender-neutral’ policies of the state in acknowledging the need for women’s organizations in the 1960s was the demographic decline, as well as the issue of the double burden on fully occupied women to balance family life. Within the same period similar issues were faced by other communist countries in the Eastern bloc. The periodical which captured the voice of women under state socialism in Bulgaria, since 1945 throughout, was Zhenata dnes (The Woman Today). Notwithstanding their positions in a state (and party) controlled environment, both the organization (CBW) and the periodical were stable advocates for the women’s agenda under socialism on issues ranging from acknowledging and legally ‘compensating’ the double burden to upholding abortion rights, to exercising pressure for state policies with regard to child and medical care. Arguably, a number of laws guaranteeing equality between men and women in all spheres of life that were in place by 1975 were achieved due to consistent negotiations between CBW and the male-dominated Politburo and Central Committee. The Constitution of 1971, for instance, included the extended maternity leave among its articles. This is not to say in a swerve of nostalgic sentiment that women’s issues were resolved under national state communism – the fact of the double burden remained an issue, the growing feminization of certain professions was on the agenda throughout, the lack of women in high-ranking positions continued.6 Also, arguably it was a traditional patriarchal order which underlay a number of achievements with regard to family life and maternity ← 364 | 365 → in the interest of society under state national communism. But on a range of issues which informed the legal ‘battles’ of women elsewhere – in the USA or other Eastern bloc countries, for instance – in the 1970s and 1980s, women in Bulgaria had had advances worth reckoning with.

The CBW also left its mark on the international arena, especially in terms of its relations with WIDF and its activism during the seminal for the global women’s movement UN Decade for Women (1975–1985). In this respect, the recently published account of Kristen Ghodsee ‘Rethinking State Socialist Mass Women’s Organizations’ (2012: 49–73) presents a multifaceted picture. Perhaps the two most salient features with regard to the CBW international activities, which have a bearing on my discussion here, are that the perspective of women in communist countries (Bulgaria being the case in point) brought to the fore not only ‘women’s issues’ but anti-war, colonialism, and racism agendas and chartered territories of solidarity across Cold War ‘camps’ boundaries and with developing countries in particular. As Ghodsee states, ‘communist women believed themselves to be active participants in the early development of the international women’s movement, by challenging mainstream American feminism and often providing inspiration to progressive women in the developing world’ (2012: 50). Showcasing Bulgaria in terms of women’s movements and organizations seems to suggest that by 1989 Bulgarian women had a rather prominent position internationally and were considered at the lead of the Soviet bloc countries in terms of domestic achievements, as well as an example for developing countries to learn from.

Yet, by that point neither Women’s nor Gender Studies in terms of Theory, social critique, methodology, etc. had informed Bulgarian academic spaces on any significant scale nor had a field been chartered in this respect in the institutions of higher education in the country.

3.  Gender Studies: Beginnings and Phases of Institutionalization

It would be difficult to argue against the view that the beginnings of what would later come to be recognized as Gender Studies in Bulgaria, currently institutionalized as degrees at the MA level, as governing separate courses’ content at the BA level and as subject area research, as well as ← 365 | 366 → more broadly as an academic field of inquiry infusing a range of disciplines, generating gender-sensitive discourses, etc. are to be located among mostly Sofia University based women academics and more specifically those who organized themselves in the Bulgarian Association of University Women NGO in 1991, thus restoring in name one of the local women’s organizations which was active before the 1940s and was dissolved in the Stalinist phase of national state communism. The implications of this location are manifold as an act of the moment and as a recurrent starting point in the articulation of the Gender Studies institutionalization narrative in this context. Among a range of those that come to mind, (a) first, the act of resurrection effectively announced ‘a death’ in the interim period and at the self-same moment projected a line of continuity categorically placed before the ‘historical aberration’ moment; (b) secondly, it acknowledged the presence of and the right to free association of women intellectual elites; (c) thirdly, it positioned the project thereafter outside the government sector, outside the then existing institutional spaces, outside that which had been seen as ‘corrupted’ by the state ideological apparatus, and ironically, at the same time defined itself against ‘politicized’ institutions and organizations. Similarly, among the first activities were extracurricular ones conducted on a voluntary basis and the setting up of an interdisciplinary seminar on gender, culture and representation in the early 1990s. All aspects evident in the choice had legitimate grounds, of course. Among others, universities in Bulgaria were at the time (still are?) centralized, hierarchical, glass-ceiling upholding, and fixed in terms of recognized disciplinary delineations (often tied with departmental institutional expressions) and subject area territories. Besides these obvious considerations on the institutional level and in view of a recently published book by the local feminist theoretician Miglena Nikolchina on the genre (and the actual practice) of ‘the seminar’ – in her case the practice of seminars in Theory in the 1980s at SU, from which members of the current establishment elites in scholarly academic circles emerged7 – the choice of activities of the 1990s feminists on the level of ‘genre’ (extracurricular, seminars, hardly documented) was at the time also reflecting the immediate 1980s modus of interrogation and critique, ← 366 | 367 → which defined itself against the regime’s attempt to establish total discursive control in monologue form. In other words, substantially perhaps, the 1990s beginnings of Gender Studies in the country were also informed by creating a site of ‘different speak’ and dialogism as a continuation from the 1980s no matter how emphatically the break with the immediate past was symbolically performed.

Positioning the ‘gender project’ thus meant that in the 1990s Bulgarian feminist academics worked from ‘without’ or at the very least from an ‘in-between’ stance with regard to established disciplines and institutional spaces of the academy. They relied on networks of support and circulation of knowledge in this respect primarily from the Anglo-American axis and were engaged in a project of translation, not only literally of feminist theory and scholarship from English into Bulgarian but also, more broadly, in cultural and political translation, which concerned the conceptual and the practical levels of implementation as well. Since Anglicists were at the crux of this project of translation, I will be returning to it in more detail in the subsequent section of this chapter. Regarding networks of support across borders, it is expedient to note that some of the first feminists from abroad who taught gender courses ‘proper’ in the institutional spaces of the Bulgarian universities since 1993 did so in English Studies departments and arrived in Bulgaria under scholarly exchange schemes which had been in place since before the period of transition such as the Bulgarian American Commission for Educational Exchange Fulbright.8 Others, such as Francine W. Frank, who conducted the course in ‘Introduction to Women’s Studies in the USA’ (1993), did so under the exchange program the English Department at SU established post-1989 with the State University of New York at Albany. A range of other channels for reciprocal exchange became available in the first years of transition, most notably with the foundation of the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary in 1991, which soon became a hub for scholarly and academic development for CESEE countries, not least in Women’s and Gender Studies. These channels also contributed to the building of resources by investing not only in ← 367 | 368 → the professional development of individuals, but also in enriching library resources, supporting local scholarly publications, creating scholarly publishing outlets on a regional basis, supporting cross-border projects and networking activities, etc. Gender-sensitization was one of the goals of the restored BAUW, and if we look at a random sample of publications in the Bulgarian language, we will see that those were variously supported by the Association’s independent budget, the Open Society Institute in Budapest, the European Communities Commission (now EC), the British Know-how Fund, to mention just a few.9

By the year 2000, on the conceptual level a stronger preference was articulated opting for ‘Gender Studies’ in the designation of the subject and the area of critical analysis locally, which is seen as ‘more inclusive, [as] it presupposes a relational system between men and women, and removes the stigma of ideology’ to quote Slavova (2011: 37) and further on ‘to avoid the connection with ideology and/or activism’ (52). As she also notes this designation is preferred in most Central and East European countries to ‘Women’s Studies’ or ‘Feminist Studies’. And while the debate on the translation of the category of ‘gender’ into Bulgarian between sotsialen pol (social sex) or rod (the linguistic equivalent to gender in English) continued, the area of inquiry was established in setting up courses – both mandatory and elective – in Gender Studies within existing subject areas manifested in degrees at the BA and MA levels at Bulgarian HE institutions, and by including a ‘gender component’ or topic within previously existing separate core or mandatory courses. The previously existing areas which at that point were especially informed by ‘gender aspects’ were area studies (British and American Studies mostly), History, Literary Theory, Philology (as studies in languages, literature, and linguistics), and the universities across the country similarly reflected the leadership of Sofia University in this respect. Taking stock of the dynamics of the field with a view to gauging gender mainstreaming in HE in Bulgaria and using SU as a case study, Slavova observes that ‘the infusion of gender elements into the content and methodology of traditional disciplines followed both “anti-discipline” and inter-discipline approaches’ and further on, for the same period ← 368 | 369 →

These early steps of building the foundations of the discipline contributed to the overall gender sensitization in the academy, and stimulated interdisciplinarity, comparative and cross-cultural approaches, yet many scholars believed that these achievements were at the expense of the visibility of the discipline (2011: 41).

The institutional consolidation of Gender Studies as a degree program followed the pattern of interdisciplinarity and cross-cultural perspectives and appeared in 2001 by the setting up of an MA degree program at the Faculty of Philosophy at SU (Director Nedyalka Videva), in which members of various departments conduct courses to this day. Now it is also a program at the PhD level.10 Post-EU accession in 2008, under an Erasmus program scheme and with funding from the EC, DG Education and Culture, SU set up the second gender-oriented degree program in Women’s and Gender History called MATILDA (Bulgarian coordinator Krassimira Daskalova) in a network mode.11 These current concentrated locations of Gender Studies in the country provide the context for ‘condensed’ gender content, interdisciplinary knowledge creation and exchange, specialist training and growth. Gender Studies have not been institutionalized at the BA degree level (which also translates as no Gender Studies departments were set up), nor have any other explicitly gender-oriented MA programs been established in the country. Additionally, while a number of gender-focused PhDs have been completed during the past twenty years, it is hard to gauge their dynamics – in terms of distribution across institutional contexts or subject areas – for a host of reasons. One of them is that until 2010 a centralized body for PhD (and higher12) degree awarding existed at the national level, which followed a uniform classification directory for ‘recognized’ academic areas. Gender Studies was not included as a separate category in it. With the latest Zakon za razvitieto na akademichniya sastav (Law for the Development of Academic Faculty in the Republic of Bulgaria) adopted since 2010, this Central Attestation Commission was dissolved and its functions decentralized and delegated to the universities in the country. The institutions of HE, however, ← 369 | 370 → continue to use the classification directory of designated academic areas as a governing principle in chartering areas of PhD research or subsequent academic rank promotions to associate professors or professors. In terms of academic ranks this qualification appears in ‘bracketed’ specifications. For instance, the promotion of one of the leading feminist historians in Bulgaria Krassimira Daskalova to a full professorship position is publicly stated as being in the ‘specialty 3.1. Sociology, anthropology, culture studies (book studies/book history; women’s and gender history)’ (Darzhaven vestnik [State gazette], 39, 20.05.2011).

Bracketed or not at all acknowledged at the level of institutional bureaucratic documentation at the higher levels, Gender Studies have been an extensively and intensively developing academic field in Bulgaria over the past twenty years. For the context in question it is perhaps most fruitful to think of them in the terms proposed by Slavova in ‘Gender Mainstreaming and Study Field Change: Patterns of Infusion, Diffusion, and Fusion at St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia’ (2011: 37–58) as dispersed across but interrogating and informing all levels and delineated and previously fixed territories of HE institutions. She also provides a most illuminating present-day picture of gender-focused and gender-inclusive courses in various programs at different Faculties of SU. At the same time, the way Gender Studies are disposed now they are failing to exercise sufficient pressure to inform educational and social policies at the government level, at that in an EU context which provides for supra-national incentives to this aim, perhaps precisely because of ‘shying away’ from activism, relying on liberal ideologies of individualism rather than on forging collective solidarity in a more decisive manner and addressing themselves towards society rather than the academy – all choices made in the immediate aftermath of the period of state communism.

The scholarly domains of social and cultural critique which Bulgarian Gender Studies academics have transformed, however, are multifaceted and far reaching. By virtue of positioning the Gender Studies project in Bulgaria both within and without, the development of the field served to interrogate fixed boundaries, especially in institutional delineation subject areas by bringing to the fore cross-cultural and interdisciplinary formations in knowledge production and circulation. Conferences and publications underpinned by feminist theories and gender focuses have interrogated ← 370 | 371 → and destabilized grand narratives of national history and national identity construction (Daskalova 1998; 2004; Stoycheva 2007), informed the canon debates and revision in Bulgaria – in the works of Milena Kirova (2009) and Amelia Licheva, among many others; formed new locations of comparison, convergence and alliances – within the Balkans (Daskalova/Slavova 2002); within CESEE countries (De Haan et al. 2006); within Europe (Dimitrova/Gavrilova 2001). These perspectives have also informed the development of social history and included oral history in the legitimate domains and modes of inquiry of the previously traditional history studies (Daskalova et al. 2003). Moreover, insofar as feminist methodology questions assumptions of dominance and subordination not only with regard to men and women, but also along the lines of any asymmetrical relation of power, a persistent trope in gender-informed analyses locally have been social, cultural and political critiques along the lines of the Balkans as a racialized Other in the 19th century mould (Kostova 1997a/b; 2001a), post-colonial and post-socialist critique (Kostova 1997a; 2012; Todorova 1994), unpacking and dismantling exchanges of stereotypical constructions between the ‘East’ and the ‘West’ (Slavova 1997b). Gendered critical lenses have also been increasingly informing discussions of consumerism, popular culture and the media, as well as turning the gaze on transitional identities (Kirova/Slavova 2007; 2010). At the same time, and especially in the past decade, the ‘politics of difference’ entailed in gender-focused discussions became more complex and nuanced to work at the intersections of difference as also simultaneously understood in terms of race, ethnicity, nation, religion, age, sexuality, etc. This latter aspect works both in scholarly publications discussing the local context within, i.e. Bulgaria, as well as by voicing the positions of local Gender Studies scholars abroad. As an example of the former I can point out the book-length study about university education and Bulgarian women (1879–1944) by Georgeta Nazarska (2003), which also addresses ethnic differences in the access to education and professional realization by women in Bulgaria. An illustration along the lines of ‘politics of difference’ in the latter vein is a bit more difficult to signpost, but in engaging with Gender Studies discourses local gender and feminist scholars have consistently engaged with interrogating the dominance of the Western Anglo-American feminist experience and critical stance as a universally valid and applicable mode of critique as well as model to emulate in terms ← 371 | 372 → of institutionalization. That is, feminists from the region capitalized on the authority of the ‘politics of difference’ to attempt to articulate ‘dissenting’ positions vis-à-vis the Anglo-American axis of feminist theories and Women’s and Gender Studies.13

The most pronounced difference in Gender Studies scholarship between the first decade and the second decade of its emergence as a field of inquiry in Bulgaria lies perhaps in the terms with which the immediately preceding period (1940s-1989) is addressed (or really not quite addressed). For example, the history of the First Women’s Movement in Bulgaria has attracted considerable scholarly attention from present day feminist historians, unlike the Second Women’s Movement 1960s-1980s (or lack thereof), seen in terms of the Anglo-American or Western ‘leading’ experience. Still, since the middle of the first decade of the 21st century feminist scholars – from the CESEE region and outside it – have turned their analytical gaze on the socialist period in attempts to critically revaluate this legacy, initially perceived as solely ‘negative’ or ‘detrimental’, hence ‘best be forgotten’ or ‘dismantled’, and to interrogate the very process of translation and translatability of the above-mentioned ‘Western’ frames. Such is, for example, the motivation of the editors of A Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms (De Haan et al. 2006) as stated in their ‘Introduction’,14 where established dichotomies are being nuanced by adopting a biographical approach, among a number of others in this respect. Beyond women’s movements, it is mostly in the second half of the past decade that a more nuanced and complex picture of the socialist period vis-à-vis women per se is beginning to shape in publications such as (and without being limited to) Kaneva and Ibroscheva (2011), Ghodsee (2007; 2012), some of the considerations quite possibly underpinned by women’s perspectives on what has recently been designated as ‘red nostalgia’ in the former Eastern bloc (Ghodsee 2004). In any case, it may well be that reckonings along such lines are necessary so as to account for a field which is still developing, dynamic, and diverse.

In view of the above section of this chapter it may appear counterproductive and implausibly constricting to frame Gender Studies developments ← 372 | 373 → within the institutional spaces of English Studies (ES), because evidently Gender Studies in Bulgaria is positioned across institutional delineations of any one discipline or particular department, but taking English Studies as a case study will flesh out substantially the issues discussed above and also throw light on its position as a driving force, mediator, locus, etc. for Gender Studies in this context.

4.  Anglicist Gender Studies in Bulgaria

The institutional historical development of English Studies in Bulgaria, within which I will be positioning my discussion of Anglicist Gender Studies, has recently been discussed in some detail by a number of scholars,15 starting with Shurbanov and Stamenov’s chapter ‘Bulgaria’ in the European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline (Engler/Haas 2000: 267–92), albeit without paying particular attention to the ‘gender aspect’ in the thus outlined stages of its institutionalization and present day condition. In brief, the outline of institutionalization follows the path of introducing the language study of English at Sofia University (SU) and the first appointment to this aim in 1906, the introduction of English as a Degree Subject in Philology in 1928, and the establishment of a Chair in ES in 1946, which spurred the subsequent appointments of specialists in Literature (English and American), Linguistics, EL Methodology, as well as instructors in English language practice. Until 1972, when the subject was introduced to Veliko Turnovo University, SU was the only institutional location of English Studies in the country. Starting in the late 1980s but mostly throughout the 1990s, several other state universities and one private university institutionalized English as a Degree Subject and subsequently Department – Plovdiv University, Shumen University, South-West University, and New Bulgarian University.

Bearing in mind the centrality of Sofia University in terms of longer history, spanning the period of the first Chair in English Studies in the country, which is positioned at the beginning of the period of national ← 373 | 374 → state communism, I would like to first address the ‘issue of women’ in the institutional spaces of ES at SU. From the perspective of students, the first female English Philology graduate Pandora Ivanova completed her degree in 1933,16 following a five-year course of study in the subject introduced in 1928. It is uncertain how many women studied English Philology in the pre-communist period but their number was most likely governed by the quota principle – introduced centrally by the Ministry of Education in 1919 – followed by the Faculty of History and Philology, which was one of the most liberal in admitting women, likely because of the traditionally acceptable teaching professional profile of the degrees, albeit fluctuating from liberal to conservative across years. At one point it was 36% for women. In 1939, judging by a protest petition which women students filed to the Ministry, this was reduced by 15% (Nazarska 2003: 79–80). The quota principle continued into the communist period, whereby the ratio between women and men for university admission was set at 50%, with revisions for different professional areas at different times. The Academic Autonomy Act of 1990 in effect lifted the quota principle from ‘unregulated professions’, as the responsibility was delegated to universities, but with regard to English Studies – among a number of subjects – revised quotas remained in place. In 2008, Plovdiv University17 admission for ES was based on 70 women and 35 men, while SU admission numbers were 68 women and 30 men. As in other contexts,18 ES students in Bulgaria are predominantly female, based on a survey conducted in 200719 among a representative sample of 417 ES students at SU, Veliko Turnovo and Plovdiv, they were 76% female to 24% male. This feminization functions by extension from the admission quotas but it is worth noting that the imbalance comes mostly in the final year of study at BA level where women become an overwhelming majority at 89%. Hence the feminization of English Studies also occurs in a cumulative fashion, from the entry point into ES to point of graduation. ← 374 | 375 →

From the perspective of appointments at the English Department at SU, prior to 1950 women held positions as language instructors and/or instructors/ teachers in ‘the methodology of the English language’, both regarded as supportive in the disposition of power relations between ‘courses proper’, i.e. in Linguistics and in Literature, in the philology degree. First specialized appointments for women, i.e. not solely as language instructors, happened during the 1950s.20 Gradually, women also began to conduct lecture courses regarded as more prestigious symbolically but also leading to appointments in associate professorship positions, therefore having a material expression of power as well.21 Until 1965 women who conducted lecture courses in Lexicology, Morphology, Syntax, Historical Grammar, Phonetics, and History of American Literature in the English Department at SU were ‘assistants’ or ‘instructors’, unlike men lecturers in the same period, who held positions as ‘professors’ or ‘associate professors’ in the academic hierarchy. In terms of presence in the Department, for the academic year 1965–66 women made up 65% of the 23 in total full members of staff (Vesselinov 2008: 33). It was most notably in the 1970s that the power balance of women in institutional ES spaces began to shift beyond numbers, i.e. women being a majority in the makeup of the department. Between 1965 and 1988, 67% of the PhDs in English Studies were defended by women and 57% of promotional appointments to associate professorship in English Studies were held by women. Zhana Molhova was the single promotional appointment to full professorship (1979) among the Anglicists for the same period. Yet, in the holding of administrative positions, such as Department Head or faculty leadership at the dean level, women were still the exception22 until 1989, indicatively reflecting the glass-ceiling paradigm in society ← 375 | 376 → at large, which was even more pronounced in the academy in particular. In other words, at the junction of regime change women academics were a constituent majority in the gradually feminizing departments of ES with considerable advancements in terms of becoming a scholarly force to be reckoned with, with as yet limited horizons of administrative realization in leadership positions in the academy.

Unsurprisingly then from an identity-based politics perspective, women from the English department formed a significant part of the founding constituency of the above-discussed BAUW. That they on the most part identified themselves academically as Americanists, even if certainly not exclusively so, is worth a pause. The developments of what could loosely be designated as American Studies in Bulgaria took a path which echoes the route followed by European departments in English Studies established under the German philological project and model. More particularly for the Bulgarian context, this meant a later date introduction of a course in the Historical Survey of American Literature (1948) and subsequent institutional appointments of specialists in American literature. By the 1980s there also existed specialized courses in the fifth year of study in English Philology, such as a year-long course in American Drama taught by Natalia Klissurska, for example, which gave a specialization profile to graduates in ‘Literature’ (rather than ‘Linguistics’ or ‘Translation’) if they opted for more courses with a literature orientation in their final year. While there was at that point a course called ‘British Civilization’, by 1989 there was still no ‘American equivalent’ of this nature. Put differently, there was no symmetry in terms of number of courses and class allocation in the literature/culture component of the philological degree between the two Anglo-centers (Britain and the USA) around which the degree was disposed. Policies of appointments and promotions to associate professorship at the department level also reflected this asymmetrical relation. At the same time, being a legitimate research area at the PhD level, American literature had gradually begun accumulating a body of PhD-ed specialists in American literature at SU and at Veliko Turnovo University23 and yet, in terms of an area study ‘American Studies’ (just as its academic professionals) were in a marginal ← 376 | 377 → position in the institutional spaces of ES. At the junction of regime change in 1989, just as societies on the ‘wrong side’ of the Iron curtain endowed ‘material USA’ or ‘symbolic America’ with a privileged position in embodying the ‘West’ they were aspiring to, the academic institutional spaces of English Studies in this context saw a number of features of the desired ‘liberation’, ‘opening’, ‘democratic vision’, etc. as entailed in the project of developing American Studies, which had a significant territorial (literally and metaphorically) anchoring and was likewise challenging boundaries and established hierarchies with its historical makeup as an (un)discipline at the location associated with its origin. Since the other line of cultural and political ‘catch-phrases’ at the onset of the 1990s had something to do with ‘catching-up’ with the world and ‘breaking with’ the immediate past, for Bulgarian Americanists this meant taking stock of ‘here’ (Bulgaria) and ‘there’ (the USA, in our case in point) and addressing ‘the gap’. As several publications on ES institutional history in Bulgaria have indicated (Katsarska 2010; Slavova 1995), from the perspective of Americanists, the ‘gap’ was identified primarily in ‘gender’ out of the holy trinity of class, race/ethnicity, and gender, informing the better half of the 20th century institutional developments in American Studies. This was the case because local American literary scholarship by then was seen as comprehensively informed by the former two in, for example, readings of American literature informed by Marxist theories or class-based arguments for racial emancipation or attention to Black American writers. These considerations are rather simplistically put, yet they suggest that from the point of view of Americanists who engaged in the local Gender Studies project, by virtue of convergence there were also ‘double gains’ for a doubly marginalized position within institutionally disposed academic spaces of subject areas. In general, the histories of Gender Studies and American Studies locally share a range of features in the 1990s; they also have similar ways of establishing themselves at the MA level post-2000, but American Culture Studies have more comprehensively and visibly consolidated their domain at the BA level and where English departments became Departments of English and American Studies.

Hopefully, the above considerations do not suggest that English Studies academics who engaged with the Gender Studies project in Bulgaria were exclusively or ‘narrowly’ Americanists. There is plenty of evidence that in ← 377 | 378 → the early 1990s ‘gender’ was a shared category across any demarcation – even if not institutionally fixed – in the local developments in culture studies (as British and American cultural studies). For example the heading of the Fourth International Conference of the Bulgarian Society for British Studies24 held in Sofia in May 1994 was ‘Women in the Modern World’. The volume arising from it, entitled The Case for Women: Britain and Europe, appeared in 2001. As the editors state at the very beginning, ‘by including the work of academics from East and West, of women and men, it [the collection] attempts to fill gaps, discontinue silences and contribute to the creation of a broader, multicultural picture of the current inquiry into gender and feminist issues’ (Chourova/Kostova 2001: 4). Also, gender as an analytical category has significantly informed local English Studies scholarship throughout the past two decades, irrespective of which English-speaking geopolitical context underlies the subject area. I return to this below among the key areas in which ES academics have contributed to the institutional developments of Gender Studies in Bulgaria.

First and foremost, English Studies academics, simultaneously members of ES departments and the BAUW, undertook a significant project of translation. On one level, this meant literally making available in Bulgarian for the first time seminal essays in feminist theories, which had been part and parcel of the theoretical makeup of scholarship outside Bulgaria since the 1970s. Some of these translations appeared in academic journals and were collected in 1997 in the volume Vremeto na zhenite. The title, indebted to Julia Kristeva’s Les temps de femmes (1979), which was used in lieu of preface, clearly posed a claim for framing this particular period – the 1990s – as the ‘women’s moment’ for the Bulgarian context. It also suggestively posited a figure of feminist theory, by then well-established in the Western circuits of production and circulation of feminist discourses, and an expat (from the 1960s) of Bulgarian origin, thus reinforcing the emancipatory project entailed not solely in feminist theories per se but beyond that as contextually-inflected concerns of the context itself coming from under the ‘burden of oppression’ and aiming at ‘catching-up’ and being recognized within a world of reconstructing borders, be that in Europe or beyond. ← 378 | 379 → Psychoanalytic feminist theories formed a key line in the feminist critique in the initial years. The volume, however, spanned decades of feminist theories and by virtue of using primarily English as the source language of the original texts, the project of introducing feminist theories into Bulgarian was by and large mediated through their consolidation in the institutional spaces in the USA. It comprised seminal essays by Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Shoshana Felman, Luce Irigaray, Barbara Johnson, Laura Mulvey, Eve Kozovski Sedgwick, Elaine Showalter, among others. As noted above, this process of translation also involved negotiating the entire repertoire of conceptual terms of feminist theory in the often theory scarce context, which was simultaneously being filled with the theoretical apparatus beyond feminism, mostly in deconstruction and psychoanalysis.

At the self-same moment within the Bulgarian linguistic and cultural sphere, the process of translation involved significant acts of transgression, because Anglicist scholars perhaps for the first time ‘spoke’ Bulgarian, since the institutional spaces of English Studies used to be exclusively English mediated – from the politics of total language-immersion at the level of pedagogy to scholarly publications of Anglicists employing for the most part English in their critical writing until the 1990s. Thus, the former isolationism of English Departments was transformed by the Gender Studies project as well. It lent greater visibility to Anglicists in the local academic and scholarly spaces beyond English departments by virtue of authority of access to and fluency in current theoretical frames. In the subsequent volumes in Bulgarian introducing and discussing decades of feminist scholarship, Anglicists and Americanists took on the task of producing the local course books to be used until the present in Gender Studies programs which do not employ English as a medium of instruction. Among these is, for instance, the volume Teoriya prez granitsite (Slavova/Kirova 2001), where ES academics such as Ralitsa Muharska, Tatyana Stoycheva, Kornelia Slavova discuss in Bulgarian topics ranging from ‘The current debates surrounding the usage, meanings and translations of gender’, to ‘Gender and nationalism’, ‘Equality versus difference(s)’, ‘Gender and language’. Employing the authority of feminist critique, Anglicists and Americanists also engaged with domains which were previously regarded to fall outside the scope of ES scholarship – in the area of Bulgarian literary and culture studies. One ← 379 | 380 → of the lines of relevant inquiry in this respect, also informed by a gendered perspective, became interrogations of nationalism and national identity construction, and the evidence of gender informed critique along such lines by ES scholars can be seen in the work of Tatyana Stoycheva, recently in her book-length study Bulgarski identichnosti i evropeiski horizonti (2007), sections of which address the implications for Bulgarian women in the 19th century Bulgarian project for national identity construction and its aspirations towards Europeanization. However, the scope of ‘Bulgarian issues’ addressed by ES academics is wider and more diverse than that. In this respect some of the essays published in another 1990s volume, Maiki i dashteri (Muharska 1999), offer a suggestive scope. Filipina Filipova addressed the ‘Image of Women in One Bulgarian Newspaper’, and Ludmilla Evtimova discussed ‘Women and Arms in the Popular Poetry of Bulgaria and Britain’. The latter effectively signposting a line of cross-cultural inquiry, which produced a number of comparatively and cross-culturally framed scholarly essays and book-length studies aimed at Bulgarian speaking audiences. A recent example of the last aspect mentioned here would be Vessela Katsarova’s Moyata rodina e tseliyat svyat (2010), which is the Bulgarian translation of her monograph My Country is the Whole World (2007), a study of Bulgarian, American, and English women writers and poets, such as Elisaveta Bagryana and Emily Dickinson, Blaga Dimitrova and Denise Levertov and Doris Lessing, Maria Stankova and Muriel Spark, as well as the women characters of Yordan Yovkov and Thomas Hardy.

English Studies scholars also exercised this cross-cultural perspective via the medium of English, which slightly shifts the emphasis of ‘addressing asymmetrical relations of power’ entailed in Gender Studies as a mode of inquiry with regard to audiences and power relations along the axes of the content disposition of the discipline of ES internationally, in which contextually located interests can be discerned. By employing comparative perspectives in the medium of English, Anglicists and Americanists also aimed at bringing Bulgarian women writers and women in history to the international forums of feminist discourses and Gender Studies spaces along the Anglo-American axis and also within the European space to which Bulgaria aspired in the transitional period. Feminist theories and Gender Studies perspectives therefore served as legitimizing a project for achieving greater visibility of local women in the international arena – be those ← 380 | 381 → historical women or contemporary women scholars and academics. As I already mentioned above, an expression of this can be sought at the level of Anglicist and Americanist scholars employing the authority of the Gender Studies paradigm to address difference in the East European/post-socialist discourse of feminism, create awareness of heteroglossia in its flows and question/interrogate the dominance of the Anglo-American centers as its uniform producers. The works of Kornelia Slavova (1993; 1995; 1997) and Ralitsa Muharska (1999) are indicative in this respect.

The multidimensional flux of the 1990s Gender Studies conception as it informed the ES institutional spaces in Bulgaria cannot be fully tapped into unless we associate it in broader terms with ‘gendered critique’ underpinning the developments of post-colonial studies. Understood thus, one of the dominant trends in local ES scholarship – that of post-colonial critique, notably in the works of Ludmilla Kostova from Tales of the Periphery. The Balkans in Nineteenth-Century British Writing (1997) and ‘(En)Gendering a European Periphery: Images of the Balkans in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction’ (1997: 53–58) to ‘Constructing Oriental Interiors: Two Eighteenth-Century Women Travellers and Their Easts’ (2001: 17–33) – also falls within the scope of the Gender Studies project as it developed in Bulgaria. This is a line of critical inquiry which consolidated a local school in ES institutional spaces and informed a number of projects of the later generation of Anglicists as well.

It is not surprising that concern with, broadly put, marginal identities was of momentous relevance to the context within the transitional period of ‘opening of and expanding boundaries’, which went hand in hand with vigorous and substantial power negotiations and power positions reconstructions. On the one hand, this entailed engaging on equal footing with ‘Western’ counterparts in established domains of inquiry of the subject areas as they are located in the Anglo-American contexts seen as still possessing the content and the lead in shaping this content (and its trends) in the waves of different academic ‘fashions’ throughout the past two decades. On the other, the ‘gendered’ voices of local ES scholars also took part in chartering those shared spaces along the lines of geopolitical and imaginary locations of the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and Europe as the early volume The Case for Women: Britain and Europe (2001) suggests, among a plethora of scholarly publications and papers. Gender-informed ← 381 | 382 → scholarship in English, especially post-2000, naturally offered less obviously location-centered critical stances too. Local scholars contributed to the growing body of scholarship in English and American culture studies informed by Gender Studies. This meant addressing not only areas neglected locally but also those which were as yet indifferently discussed but seemed of increasing interest: women writers in the canons of English and American literature; feminist readings of canonical works; travel writing; biography and autobiography; the intersections of gender and race/ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality; masculinity; postmodernism; body theory; popular culture; consumerism – to mention a few.

The above-outlined considerations have also transformed the curricula in English Studies locally at the level of separate course arrangements and topic allocations in syllabi within existing courses. They have also gender-sensitized ES pedagogy analytically as well as practically. Among a number of essays from the 1990s in the vein of reflecting on introducing gender-sensitive critical pedagogy at the BA level, the example of Zelma Catalan’s analysis of the curriculum innovation and experimentation in the Practical English Course ‘Breakbar: Breaking communication barriers’ comes to mind (1999: 9–25). Moreover, adopting the pedagogical paradigm of teaching students to transgress against racial, sexual, and class boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom, where to educate is seen as the practice of freedom, paraphrasing bell hooks, English Studies in Bulgaria were perhaps among the first subject areas which took on the responsibility of turning the lens of the English Studies classroom onto Bulgarian society itself – especially in the corpus of English practice classes but also in courses in Linguistics, Literature and Culture Studies – a society which by and large is still characterized by sexism, homophobia, racism, nationalism, etc. In that, arguably, the Gender Studies optics with its pedagogical implications provided the theoretically informed argument towards this aim. One of the current efforts to continue influencing the local HE milieu in terms of pedagogical and analytical implications of taking gender into account in institutional spaces and academic fields in the country is the translation – supported by the BAUW – of Mihaela Miroiu’s book Guidelines for Promoting Gender Equity in Higher Education in Central and Eastern Europe (2003, Bulgarian translation 2008). These recent initiatives are underpinned ← 382 | 383 → by Bulgaria’s EU membership since 2007 and conforming to imperatives chartered within the wider European space.

The present day curriculum arrangements in ES degrees reflect the wider picture of institutionalization of Gender Studies in the country. At both the BA and MA levels of programs offered by ES in the country, gender clusters have been integrated in mandatory or elective courses. The syllabi of these courses reveal that gender is easily and often cross-classified with other categories of social analysis such as class, race/ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, region and religion. A look at ES programs at SU25 yields the following snapshot at the BA level:

gender is present in courses as diverse as ‘Introductory Course on British Society’ (gender in youth culture), ‘English Literature from Victorianism to Modernism’ (women writers, women and the avant-garde), ‘Cultural History of the US’ (first and second wave of feminism, the 1920s and women’s rights, black women and feminism of colour), ‘History of American Literature’ (women writers, slavery and women), ‘Canadian Literature and Culture’ (Native women writers, multiculturalism and gender issues), ‘Popular Culture in the US: Texts and Images’ (feminine/masculine genres, gender in MTV culture and Hollywood), ‘Popular Fiction on Page and Screen,’ (chick lit, James Bond movies and masculinity), ‘Negotiating (with) Power’ (sexism in language, stereotyping and hate speech). (Slavova 2011: 46)

This detailed rendition of curriculum space allocation in terms of gender, covering the MA level as well, echoes the considerations of scholarly domains of field interest discussed above and it capitalizes on two decades of Gender Studies developments in Bulgaria. At other English departments across the country, gender is similarly integrated in the curricula, either by a visible trace of topic focus within a course or by a gender-based/oriented course within another program. Not aiming to be exhaustive but suggestive, glimpses with regard to both these tendencies can be seen at different institutions. At Plovdiv, for example, the BA course in English Romanticism features three lecture topics in this regard: ‘The rise of “feminine” Romanticism. Major characteristics’; ‘Jane Austen: irony and “feminine” nuance’; and ‘Mary Shelley: feminine revisionism of the masculine tradition. Family politics vs. “masculine” individualism’; as well as in the seminar topic ‘Considering gender’. Among ← 383 | 384 → the 20th century English Literature topics ‘Tendencies in women’s writing. Realism. Feminist propaganda. Fantasy’ and in the course in Victorian literature in seminar topics: ‘Jane Eyre: autobiography and the position of the independent (parentless) female individual (the governess as a social category). Gender authority: education and independence’; ‘Lord Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning: the imprisoned/victimized female individual and the male artist’, and in American literature – ‘American women realists’, as well as in other course contexts. At Veliko Turnovo University at the MA level, there is an independent Gender Studies course as well as discussions of gendered identities and gazes in the course ‘The Balkans and Eastern Europe in British Literature and Travel Writing (18–21c)’. With respect to course syllabi and curricular arrangements gender is less visible in courses in linguistics, with the exception of SU. The difference in terms of course provisions between the 1990s and the years post-2005, is that the earlier decade relied primarily on guest lecturers and scholars in the setting up of gender-related courses, often on an elective basis, with scholarly exchanges supported within the frame of the Fulbright Program,26 for example, or the SUNY exchanges of SU, while nowadays these are taught mostly by local scholars, who have developed their expertise in the field. Relying on the visibility and authority across institutionally demarcated spaces in Bulgarian institutions of HE achieved through engaging with the Gender Studies project in terms of scholarship during the transitional period, Anglicists and Americanists are also conducting courses in the inter-departmentally instituted Gender Studies MA programs.

As the above paragraphs suggest, over the past twenty years ES academics have been active contributors to the production and circulation of gender and gendered discourses in English and in Bulgarian for domestic audiences across institutional boundaries as well as for international audiences across geopolitical demarcations. These scholarly efforts have also led to transformations of traditional philological curricula in English Studies and have informed extensively the present makeup of course syllabi. Now, if we return to the way I began this section of the chapter, i.e. by taking ← 384 | 385 → stock of the demographics and gender power relations (in the narrow sense) within the institutional spaces of English Studies, the present day picture of ‘women in academia’ or, more specifically, in the ‘case study’ of English departments may well look different. Indeed it is. The institutional spaces of English Studies have become even more feminized in terms of full-time staff members, whereby Plovdiv University is perhaps at the lowest end of women faculty ratios with 68%, while in departments such as the Department of Germanic and Romance Languages at the South-West University among the 21 members there are currently 2 men. At Shumen University 13 members (out of 14) of the English Department are women. Among the SU English department members women make 80% of full-time faculty. Out of the six departments involved in ES programs across the country, four are chaired by women. In the country’s largest English department, that at SU, comprising 43 full-time members, currently there are 6 full professors and 9 associate professors – all of them women. In those promotions to highest academic ranking positions even if not at all explicitly institutionalized as ‘Gender Studies positions’ – they are institutionalized as associate professorships or professorships in periods of English or American literature, fields in Linguistics, Translation Studies, etc. – a number of women academics included in their portfolios a significant array of academic publications along the lines of Gender Studies scholarship. Right now, by virtue of occupying the highest academic positions in ES institutional spaces in Bulgaria women form the hegemony in decision making on departmental policies, scholarly academic advancement and post-doctoral promotion procedures, so it would be interesting to see how this empowered position (or really dominance) translates into the local dimensions of English Studies as a field of critical inquiry, educational paradigm, institutional arrangements, everyday practice of the discipline, and their relations to other disciplines on the domestic scene and to other contexts, internationally or globally.


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Shurbanov, Alexander / Christo Stamenov, ‘English Studies in Bulgaria’, in European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline, ← 388 | 389 → eds. Balz Engler / Renate Haas (Leicester: The English Association, for ESSE, 2000), pp. 267–92.

Slavova, Kornelia, ‘Does Feminism Speak East-European?’, in Working Papers in Women’s Studies and Gender Relations, University of British Columbia, 4:6 (1995), 1–14.

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–, ‘Feministki raznorechiya Iztok-Zapad’ [Feminist Heteroglossia East-West], in Maiki i dashteri, ed. R. Muharska, pp. 38–52.

–, ‘Forked Tongue: Gender Stereotypes between East and West’, in Ana’s Land: Sisterhood in Eastern Europe, ed. Tanya Renne (Boulder: Westview, 1997), pp. 121–32. (= 1997b).

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–, Letopisna kniga na Fakulteta po klasicheski i novi filologii (1888–1965) [Annals of the Faculty of Classical and New Philologies (1888–1965)] (Sofia: Sofia UP, 2008).

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[Received September 16, 2013] ← 390 | 391 →

1 The detailed biographies of the activists mentioned in this section can be found in De Haan et al. 2006. The entries for Bulgaria are: Vela Blagoeva, Dimitrana Ivanova, Elissaveta Karamichailova, Lyuben Karavelov, Ekaterina Karavelova, Anna Karima, Kina Konova, Julia Malinova, Vera Zlatareva, and Ekaterina Zlatoustova.

2 See Daskalova/Nazarska 2006, Daskalova 2006, Nazarska 2007, and the website of the present day Bulgarian Association of University Women at <> (10 Sept 2013).

3 One of the most current analyses of Gender Studies in Bulgaria by Slavova starts at precisely this junction (2011: 38–41).

4 Set up in 1945, dismissed in 1950.

5 Protocol A, N200 of 21 May 1968, available online at <> (10 Sept 2013).

6 Svetla Daskalova and Ludmilla Zhivkova in their capacities of Minister of Justice and Minister of Culture, respectively, accentuate this issue as exceptions. Further along these lines, among the 400 members of the National Assembly in 1986, only 84 were women. In the following year only 1 out of the 17 members of the Council of Ministers was a woman (Shreir 1988: 36).

7 See Nikolchina 2012 or her 2002 paper.

8 Fulbright exchanges between Bulgaria and the USA began in the late 1960s, but the Commission was inaugurated with a ten year bilateral agreement between the Government of the US and the Republic of Bulgaria in 1993.

9 Slavova/Kirova 2001; Daskalova/Slavova 2002; Nikolchina et al. 1997; Muharska 1999, respectively.

10 See detailed description and analysis in Slavova (2011: 41–42).

11 With the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, the Université Lumière Lyon 2, and the University of Nottingham, UK, coordinated by the University of Vienna. See website at <> (10 Sept 2013).

12 Bulgaria follows the German model of habilitation.

13 See for instance Kotzeva 1999; Slavova 1995; 1997a; 1999; 2011.

14 Especially pages 8–9.

15 See also the website of the project ‘English Studies in Non-Anglophone Contexts: East Europe’ at <> (10 Sep 2013), and the related Gupta/Katsarska 2009; Katsarska 2010 on globalization and ES in Bulgaria; Katsarska/Keskinova 2011 on ES students in Bulgaria.

16 Vesselinov (2008: 45).

17 As of 2013 Plovdiv University has abandoned the quota principle for women and men in languages and is basing its admissions solely on merit in a range of subjects.

18 For the UK, see Williams 2002.

19 This survey is discussed in detail in Katsarska/Keskinova 2011.

20 Among the first appointments in this respect are Zhana Molhova as an assistant in English grammar in 1951, senior assistant 1961–68; Teodora Atanassova lecturer in theoretical phonetics and the English language 1951–53; Paulina Pirinska senior instructor in the English language and American literature in 1959.

21 On power relations within the makeup of the English Philology degree especially with regard to English practice classes, see Katsarska 2012.

22 Molhova was Department Head in 1974–75 and 1984–89, also Vice-dean 1970–72 together with Maria Rankova. Maya Pencheva and Julia Stefanova occupied faculty leadership positions in the late 1980s.

23 Natalia Klissurska and Lilyana Georgieva in 1985; Yonka Krasteva and Boukitsa Grinberg in 1988.

24 Organized in conjunction with the BAUW.

25 SU course descriptions are available at <> (13 Sep 2013).

26 For instance, the teaching terms of Susan Gunter at SU in 2001; Jane Barstow at Veliko Turnovo in 2003; Paula Shirley at the American University in Bulgaria in 2003; Judith Barlow at SU in 2007; Lauren McConnell at Plovdiv in 2010.