Assistant Professor of Ethnology, University of Sofia
(January – June 2014)
Old Men at Home: Bulgarian Eldercare Policies, Family, and Gender
Since the late 19th century, Bulgarian policy-makers have encouraged younger generations to take the burden of care for their elders, and promoted a multi-generational family. This project focuses on the 1970s and 1980s, when the socialist authorities tried to redesign intergenerational relations. I will argue that the most successful aspect was the effort to promote the role of grandparents as surrogate parents, while the attempt to promote an image of old people as reservoirs of wisdom was rather counterproductive. Some of the most powerful ageist stereotypes emerged during this period, and the concept of care was revised. It seems that old men found these new old age-roles negotiated in the 1980s more difficult to adopt. The everyday life of old men, their choice to take care – or not – of their grandchildren, to follow higher career goals or just to stay busy, provides important insights into class inequalities in socialist Bulgaria, which remain otherwise obscure in official documents and statistics.
Previous stays at the IWM:
2000, Junior Visiting Fellow