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Developmentality in Southeastern Europe: The Evolution of Developmental Discourse in Bulgaria and Turkey in the Debate on Traffic Infrastructure (1908-1989)

Dr Malte Fuhrmann

The project will analyze developmentality as a specific discourse on progress by focusing on traffic infrastructure in Bulgaria and Turkey. According to the working hypothesis, since the 19th century, traffic infrastructure has been essential to the creation of discursive strategies that either legitimized power structures in Southeastern Europe or challenged them. Following a comparative approach to the relation of infrastructure to legitimacy, the project will explore the question of whether the experience of modernity in Bulgaria and Turkey was predominantly shaped by their common historical heritage, regional conditions, changing ideologies, or by Great Power influence. Statements regarding the place of one's own society – somewhere  along the road between proclaimed backwardness and the assumed standards of the time – will form the focus of analysis, specifically during four critical transitional phases. Events related to traffic infrastructure will serve as the empirical anchors that make role models, fears, and their dependency on historical and political determinants visible. By analyzing criticism as well as affirmation of traffic infrastructure investments, this study will recreate snapshots of the two societies' self-images at pivotal historical moments. A Foucauldian discourse analysis in the tradition of Arlette Farge and Alf Lüdtke will be employed to assess discursive strategies and their underlying themes in a diachronic perspective. Comparing the deeply entangled neighboring countries of Bulgaria and Turkey (and before 1923, its predecessor the Ottoman Empire) promises to yield a better understanding of the common roots and later divergences in the manifestation of developmentality in Southeastern Europe.