Volume 1, 2010
Politics of Memory in Post-communist Europe
How We Raised a Monster: Constructing the Image of Socialism during the Post-Socialist Period in Bulgaria
Drawing on Foucault’s analyses of the legal category of “monstrosity” the paper’s focus is the way in which socialism as part of Bulgarian history was largely constructed as a “monster”. It appears that the key characteristics of the latter could be found in the ways we handle this period of history and collective memory. I argue that the concept of “monster” provides a useful entry point for considering the entity “communism”, constructed after 1989 through different representational strategies and practices of assessment. It is revealing to observe some of the typical representational practices, performed during the transition, as practices raising a kind of historical or temporal monster.
The paper consists of two parts. The first one elaborates the conceptual network of the discourse of monstrosity and its key features. The monster represents
the transgression of natural limits, it appears only when confusion comes up, for the monster combines the impossible and the forbidden. It is the casuistry
that is introduced into law by the confusion of nature. The second part draws on these features and conveys them in the thinking of history, practices of historical representation, the strategies of shaping the collective past and memory. The analysis is led by the idea, which Slavoj Žižek vividly expressed in the following way: “Perhaps the best way of encapsulating the gist of an epoch is to focus not on the explicit features that define its social and ideological edifices but on the disavowed ghosts that haunt it, dwelling in a mysterious region of nonexistent entities which non the less persist, continue to exert their efficacy” (Žižek 2001: 3).