Experiencing post-socialism: Running and urban space in Sofia, Bulgaria

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Barnfield, A (2016)

This article suggests that cities in Central and Eastern Europe should be understood as developing and interacting with their own unique character and challenges on their own terms. In providing an account of embodied and everyday activities, this paper challenges the conception of a decline in public-oriented acts and affordances understood via the notion of post-socialist privatism. In doing so this paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork of recreational running; an underutilised tool for urban analysis. Despite the growing interest in recreational running amongst urban scholars, engaging with the practice has remained largely neglected within research on the post-socialist cities of Central and Eastern Europe. This paper uses a case study of two recreational running clubs from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, offering a discussion of everyday experience, public life and urban space. This case study combines participant observation and in-depth qualitative interviews with runners and club organisers to complicate the idea of post-socialist cities as places defined by the decline of public sensibilities and a single conception of the post-socialist condition.
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