Accepted paper:

"In Spain I am like every one else - simply a Bulgarian immigrant": the flexibilization of identification and the double-naming strategy of Bulgarian Muslims in Spain


Neda Deneva (Babes-Bolyai University)

Paper short abstract:

Using the case of Bulgarian Muslim migrants in Spain, this paper looks at the interplay between official state crafted categories like immigrant, regular/irregular worker, citizen etc and the appropriation of such categories by migrants who move between two institutional and social context.

Paper long abstract:

The focus of my research is the complex relationship which Bulgarian Muslims engaged in transnational migration have developed with the two states in which they are simultaneously embedded - Bulgaria and Spain. More particularly, I focus on the interactions and crossing points between official state-proposed, imposed, institutionalized categorizations and the everyday enactments, appropriations, re-interpretations and evasions of such categorizations by Bulgarian Muslim migrants. In Bulgaria, they are positioned on the margins of the state socially, economically, and politically, being simultaneously excluded and included in the nation-state project, living in an economically underdeveloped region, and not having political representation. In Spain, they have to negotiate their position of labour migrants, Muslims and EU citizens simultaniously. Based on my field research, I argue that migration is conceived by the Bulgarian Muslims migrants as an empowering mechanism which allows them to circumvent the Bulgarian state categorizations and other ethnic and social groups marginalizing definitions. In Spain they are able to reinvent themselves and choose other labels to which to subscribe. While keeping their Muslims names and Muslim identification for the internal village community which is reproduced in Spain, they present themselves to the outside world, both institutional and social, with their alternative Bulgarian names and their Bulgarian citizenship. Consequently, while sustaining and reproducing the village community migrants more and more differentiate themselves from the group of other Bulgarian Muslims through this duality. By downplaying their Muslimness they offer their Bulgarian nationality and European citizenship as a distinctive marker of their group identity.

panel IW03
Liminal Europe