Work, Spatial Relationships and Privatization in a Bulgarian Steel Town

This project investigates rapid socio-economic transformations in the context of privatisation in a steel and mining town in Bulgaria that has been one of the emblematic locations of industrialisation in that country since the early 20th century. During the last 20 years, numerous factories have closed and been abandoned, while others have been privatised. The latter now exhibit new practices of management and production, including new machinery and technology and shifting industrial relations. In this context, the new categories of permanent and temporary employees as well as the rising numbers of the unemployed shape new inequalities. My ethnographic questions focus on relationships between these groups inside the workplace as well as inside households and communities. Furthermore, taking space as dynamic and processual, I explore the ways in which transformations of the urban landscape are manifest in people’s use of space. In the steel-making factory, I am focussing on gender, age and ethnic divisions on the shop floor and how these dimensions of difference connect with the categories of permanent and temporary work. In a social context where industrial labour has been significantly de-valued since the socialist past, I am also examining human-machine relationships, ideas of creativity and value, and new political discourses and activism. This ethnographic enquiry aims to contribute to wider discussions of shifting relations of class.

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