Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Columbia University
A Cyber-Socialism At Home and Abroad: Bulgarian Modernisation, Computers and The World 1967-1989

My research examines how Bulgaria transformed from a Soviet copy of development into a unique case for overcoming backwardness and how this modernisation was facilitated by interactions with the socialist and capitalist camps, before being exported to the developing world where it tangled with competing projects and fed back into domestic ideas of control and social engineering. The research employs a dual method: a commodity history of the Bulgarian computer, the main export good that signified the nation's development; and ethnography of the professional class around it. It intervenes in many fields, such as those of international development, Cold War geopolitics and history of science, and examines them through a group of experts that elaborated the specific Bulgarian modernisation model and applied it at home and abroad. This group of experts controlled the research agendas of all universities and directed economic planning priorities. Under the leadership of an electronics engineer they steered the country away from heavy industry into the realm of computing, cybernetics and high technology, presenting Bulgaria as a master of the new scientific revolution, applying it better than even the Soviets. These experts were keen to forge links abroad and thus offered developing nations the opportunity to skip "stages of historical development" which other development models held they need to go through. This was most evident in India, which between 1967 and 1984 was the focus of the biggest Bulgarian development efforts abroad – not just as an export market, but by the late 70s as also partner in a division of labour in electronics production. At the same time, the reality of creating a computer in a country with no experience in this field answers questions about the Second World as an area of exchange, the use of intelligence and international trade to gain expertise and the transformation of areas of Bulgaria that were chosen as the sites of the new factories.