Call for Papers

Transborder Commemoration Routes and Rituals

1-2 November 2018
Sofia, Bulgaria

Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum –
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences


The various cases of commemorative and pilgrimage visits and rituals across borders are often considered as ways of establishing proximity with sacred sites of national significance, and a means of consolidating and emphasizing collective identity. Regardless of the type of commemorative and pilgrimage visits (religious, political, or spurred by civic patriotic initiative), the crossing of geographic boundaries and political borders ensures temporal continuity and strengthens national memory and identity. The trip across the border with the purpose of (national) commemoration is a sign of symbolic contestation of the historical definition of political borders and of foreign national narratives, while also being a conquest of symbolic territories, actualization of traumatic or heroic myths, and sharing of sacredness and cultural belonging. These processes are closely related to the established and informal mechanisms of construction of cultural heritage beyond state borders as part of the national symbolic territory. Whilst this can be observed in many contexts in Europe and worldwide, it has particular resonance on the Balkans where the intensive redrawing of national borders in the course of the last century has resulted in diverse examples of commemorative visits across state borders observed until today.

The conference seeks to explore transborder commemorative and pilgrimage practices as a mechanism for constructing national cultural heritage abroad. The representative routes and places, commemoration practices, objects of religious pilgrimage, and patriotic individual or group visits are examined as manifestations of national identity and discussed from the perspective of travel, border crossing, commemorative rituals, and various official and personal media representations. The politics ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ aiming to ‘reclaim’ or share realms of memory situated outside the national territory could be important aspects of cultural heritage studies.

The three main lines of problematization which will be explored within the conference cover a homogeneous thematic areal with various common grounds, whilst also being heterogeneous in their policies and sacred features. They include transborder political commemorations, transborder religious pilgrimage of distinct national historic character, and patriotic visits abroad. Accordingly, topics for papers may range widely and include the following:

  • transborder routes of pilgrimage and rethinking their objects as heritage in local and national perspectives;
  • national and religious artefacts and their construction as heritage beyond state borders;
  • transborder pilgrimage practices, trips, and rituals;
  • ‘national’ saints, sacred places, and symbols;
  • function of religious communities, church, state institutions, cultural associations, and tourist agencies for establishing and stimulating transborder commemoration practices;
  • interaction between religious and national traditions, based on shared sacredness and processes of cultural exchange;
  • models for constructing cultural heritage on the axis ‘from above’ – ‘from below’: political regimes and civic organizations;
  • (Eastern Europe) the role of post-1989 changes (secularization, EU integration, EU enlargement, open borders, rise of religiosity) for the intensification of transborder commemorative flows and the use of transborder visits in present-day political agendas.

Please submit a proposal containing your full name, e-mail address, institutional affiliation, the title of your paper, and an abstract of 300 words. We also invite colleagues to propose panel sessions. The paper or panel proposals must be in English and should be sent before 31 May 2018 to The presentations should be up to 30 minutes in length including discussions. The organizers will publish and send the list of the selected papers until 25 June 2018.

Selected papers will be published in the conference proceedings. The organizers will expect papers selected for publication to be submitted by 31 January 2019.

The conference will be held at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, in Sofia on 1-2 November 2018. There is no registration fee; however, subsistence allowances are not available. Participants could be assisted with their travel arrangements and hotel reservations.

Organizing Committee:
Assoc. Prof. Bozhidar Alexiev, PhD

Assist. Prof. Lina Gergova, PhD
Assist. Prof. Yana Gergova, PhD
Valentin Voskresenski, PhD candidate