George Blazyca Prize, 2014
Awarded at the 2016 Annual Conference
(University College London)
Cultures of Democracy in Serbia and Bulgaria: How Ideas Shape Publics
This is a very original book which presents a vivid account of the political culture in two cities of South-East Europe. By conducting focus groups, interviews and participant observation in Niš and Plovdiv, Dr Dawson was able to identify and analyse common discourses about politics which underpin the ‘public sphere’. These help explain the persistence of a liberal strand of public opinion in Serbia which Dawson claims to be nearly absent in Bulgaria. The book skilfully shows how political cultures originating in the communist period are constantly reproduced in discussions among ordinary citizens, and how they both support but also contradict messages coming from the media and politicians. The book makes a great contribution to reinvigorating debates on democracy and democratisation in post-communist countries by the focus away from institutions and by bringing ‘the people’ in. The book sets new standards for political ethnography and illuminates the pivotal role of the cultural dimension.
Prof Anne White (SSEES, University College London)
Dr Kataryna Wolczuk (University of Birmingham)
The George Blazyca Prize was established by BASEES in recognition of the outstanding contribution to its field of study made by the late George Blazyca.