Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.798713
Title: The panelka palimpsest : transformation of everyday life in a prefabricated neighbourhood in Sofia
Author: Nikolov, Nikolay
ISNI:       0000 0004 8508 3158
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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Abstract:
From the onset, the role of Soviet architecture was not just the physical construction of buildings, but also the reconstruction of the way of life - perestroika byta. Many prominent scholars in urban anthropology have used that to diagnose the present, to understand societies, pinning the discontinuities (Buchli, 1999) in material culture against the seeming ubiquity of socialist aesthetics and ideology. To showcase the extent to which architecture acts as a catalyst for social change, scholars of Soviet material culture often examine the relationship between a dominant institution (monuments, public or private buildings, and spaces) and the urban whole. My thesis attempts to go one step further, replacing the centre ('dominanta') with the periphery, with that which remains unseen in its ubiquitous unoriginality ('banalka') to focus on the prefabricated mass housing system, colloquially known as the panelka - a universal legacy of socialism that has come to contain almost all aspects of domestic and everyday life in Bulgaria. I demonstrate two ways in which a methodological palimpsestuousness (Dillon, 2006) of prefabricated concrete can help trace the discontinuities of everyday life in socialist and post-socialist Bulgaria. Firstly, by examining the changes in the quotidian practices panelki inhabitants used to carve out lives for themselves (as processes of micropowers), both before and after socialism. Second, and most importantly, showing how the institution of panelki fails, constantly, as a 'social condenser' (Ginsburg, 1928), but in doing so, engenders a productive power that can fulfil the original social and political promise of change, albeit in unexpected and counteractive ways. Referring to the notion of "prefab civilisation" (Kotkin, 2007), the neighbourhood of Mladost has a special place in the overall stock of prefabricated concrete. It is both a remnant of the past, remaining largely unchanged from its initial built form, and a hint to the future, with individual interventions marking external façades like multi-coloured mosaics. Using data collected through participant observation over four years of intermittent life inside a Mladost panelka, as well as hundreds of interviews and photographs of flats and inhabitants, this research show how the materiality of panelki produces both resilience and attachment to the socialist past and concrete ecumene. The thesis further explores how this palimpsestuousness transcends the locality of Mladost to serve as diagnosis of the present for the Bulgarian post-socialist landscape as a whole.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.798713  DOI: Not available
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