Alina Curticapean, MA, M.Sc.
Tampere Peace Research Institute
Department of Political Science and International Relations
University of Tampere
Doctoral research project
Metaphors of integration. Power and subjectivity in Bulgarian European accession discourses
My doctoral project entails researching verbal and visual representations of metaphors in the European integration discourses in Bulgaria. It focuses on the metaphors used in broader societal discourses – as represented in political cartoons – and the effects of these metaphors, or how they produce political subjects and affect existing patterns of power relations such as those around the Balkans which characterize the Bulgarian context (Balkanist discourse). Political cartoons constitute a particularly interesting type of material which so far has received only limited attention from scholars. To make their point cartoons usually rely on dominant discourses within a society but at the same time, through the use of humour and irony, have the potential to challenge the very discourses on which they initially drew.
While concentrating on political cartoons, this project puts together both the official and the broader societal discourses (in the form of political cartoons) which constitute two types of ‘texts’ relaying on two different forms of representation, verbal for the former and mainly visual for the latter. The methodological challenges that such a combination might create are overcome by focusing on metaphors. Metaphor is defined in this study in a broad sense as seeing something in terms of something else. Metaphors are vital elements of discourses and ideal targets of discourse analysis for at least two reasons. First, not only are metaphors abundant in both political statements and interviews as well as in political cartoons dealing with EU accession, but similar metaphors are used in both discourses. Second, metaphors are intricate elements of discourse; due to their polysemous character, the same metaphors can make different sense in different contexts.
This study seeks to contribute to the discussion of the relationship between politics and popular culture in IR by concentrating on the triad European integration, national identity and political cartoons in contemporary Bulgaria. It also aims to bring a methodological contribution to the field of IR by proposing metaphor analysis as a convenient solution to deal with both verbal and visual ‘texts’, not separately, but as a package. It should be mentioned here that the study takes a discourse-analytical approach to metaphor and links metaphor to identity construction and power. Finally, this project aspires to bring an empirical contribution to the study of national and state identity in Central and Eastern Europe – by arguing for an anti-essentialist understanding of identity – and to the current debates concerning the EU enlargement – by focusing on EU’s margins.
Key words: Balkanism, Bulgaria, cartoons, Europe, European Union (EU), foreign policy, identity, integration, metaphors, power