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WEMov’s transcribathon in Sofia

    WEMov’s Meeting in Sofia

    15-16 September 2022 


    Primary sources, Landmarks, Datasets, Milestones, Keynotes 

    First in-person transcribathon @ Sofia in Bulgaria 

    An important event closed GP2 for Women on the Move: the mid-term report has just been submitted to COST. It’s true! It seems like it was only yesterday that we first met, but we’ve already gone halfway together. Over this period, conditioned by the pandemic and, more recently, by the war in Ukraine, we nonetheless made remarkable advance towards our deliverables. Two annual workshops have already been organized in ITC countries (Hungary and Cyprus), and an extra working meeting was now held in Bulgaria. This was a very practical event: our first in-person transcribathon! 

    Indeed, we have managed to boost dynamic participation with “transcribathons”, a way of describing them would be: coworking spacetimes where meaningful personal connections help us to feel more engaged and motivated, boosting our productivity; it’s a way of collectively learn how to collect and record the data we need and finally get down to work! These have been successes and have allowed us to gather over 200 primary sources to start our interactive map; to add 50 entries to the landmarks’ list (now reaching 700 landmarks).  

    Picture 1: Welcome package 

    Our meeting was held at the National Ethnographic Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria. This museum is housed in the premises of the former Royal Palace, a remarkable building in the center of Sofia from the end of the 19th century – a monument of culture. The purpose of the National Ethnographic Museum is to collect, preserve and expose everything connected to the Bulgarian ethnocultural wealth.  

    Our meeting started on 15 September at 9am with the warm welcoming words by the organizers represented by Petko Hristov and Niya Spasova (WG4). Their words were followed our Chair Marie Ruiz‘s speech, who took this opportunity to welcome the new members of the network and introduce the keynote speaker, Eleonore Kofman. 

    Picture 2: Eleonore Kofman 

    Eleonore Kofman is Professor of Social Policy at the Middlesex University (London). Her work focuses on the topics of gender, migration, and citizenship. Her presentation was entitled “Women on the Move: articulating family and skilled migration” and the emphasis was placed on the articulations and entanglements most needed within migration research. Indeed, she showed how dominant focus on less-skilled employment pushes into the background the circulation of skilled female migrants and endorses the paradigmatic separation of (male) skilled and (female) less-skilled understandings of migration. On the other hand, the strong focus by feminist researchers on domestic and care work (although crucial) reinforces stereotypes of migrant women and fails to recognise the much broader gendered migrant division of labour. By adopting an intersectional approach (considering generational, age, class/socio-economic status, sexualities, other social dimensions, life courses, mobility’s intersection with intimate relationships, etc.), we seek to understand the articulations between categories often treated as if unrelated, to make visible under-studied areas and the gender assumptions that underpinned family and skilled migrations, and questioning categories and processes related to different forms of gendered migrations. A fascinating discussion followed her presentation.

    From 10.30am until lunch time we had the opportunity to visit the conference venue, the National Ethnographic Museum. Petko Hristov showed us a varied collection including costumes, interesting artefacts, crafts, embroidery, jewelry, musical instruments, and traditional items used in daily life past. Visiting all of it in this special historic building was more than a guided tour: a mix of history and culture, emphasizing transitions in time and the architectural heritage of different regimes. Of course, it was particularly moving to reach the last room where the posters of our exhibition were displayed. The indoor exhibition is a result of the contribution of our COST members and it includes a series of posters, a scrapbook of testimonies and milestones. Undeniably, we could notice the evolution from the first time they were exhibited. The first version of our poster exhibition had already been displayed at our second annual meeting in Cyprus (one day outdoor and one day indoor); now in Sofia and will be displayed once more in Lisbon (2023). The final Trinity exhibition is getting ready for Dublin in 2024 as initially agreed. 

    Picture 3: Exhibition opening ceremony 

    Picture 4: Poster exhibition 

    Lunchtime gave us a perfect opportunity to organize team building, taking advantage of personal presence. The game was a gift exchange called ‘secret present’ organized and animated by our Science Communication Coordinator, Lívia Prosinger. According to the pre-meeting email invitation, everybody brought a little item which typically represented his/her home country. Waiting to be served at the restaurant was transformed into a pleasant and funny moment, trying to guess from where the gifts were! This activity helped us to get to know each other and our newly joined members better. (At the end of the day every participant had got an item randomly chosen, so everybody could take home a personal souvenir). Once the food arrived, we just understood why the restaurant Birariya Dondukov is Petko’s favorite. We were introduced to the Shopska salad, a traditional cold salad from Bulgaria. Delicious!  

    Picture 5: ‘Secret present’ 

    Back to work. Tatjana Šarić (in-person) and Katelin Parsons (via Zoom) presented “Archival Landmarks on Women Migrants. WG1’s Transcribathon”. The main topic was on primary sources, on where to search for data. The main sources can be found on some of the databases; websites of the archives/libraries of the specific countries of there’s a possibility of an online search/catalogue; websites of archival and library societies. Of course, there are some issues that we face while looking for primary sources on migrant women: the insufficient elaboration or the absence of the online catalogues of individual heritage institutions and the language barrier.  

    Picture 6: WG1 Transcribathon 

    After a very useful presentation and a coffee break, Tatjana Šarić gave us the assignment: everyone should start looking for specific women and records on migrant women in the archives and libraries of their country, namely the countries we don’t have any primary sources from yet. In this process we used the list of Women Landmarks’ from the database of WG2 with this analogy: if there are landmarks named after these women, then should exist primary sources about them as well. WG1 is collecting new primary sources, catalogues that are not always used by its members, and it is listing the Women’s Libraries across COST members, which will be an invaluable tool for researchers to access material on women’s migration across Europe. Methodologies to gather sources have been explored and compared across WGs and the transcribathons, once online and then in-person which had a great impact in collecting data. 

    Picture 7: Group photo in the front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 

    We closed the first day’s program with a walking tour in the city centre of Sofia where Petko Hristov guided us through the historical and institutional monuments of the old town. We were impressed by the grandiosity of the huge buildings, wide streets, imperial and socialist symbols, we walked on the yellow cobblestones which are a central landmark of the city. We could take a look into the famous St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which is one of Sofia’s symbols and primary tourist attractions, and into another little one in the neighbourhood: the St. Sofia (Sveta Sofia) Church is one of the oldest Christian temples in Bulgaria. The end of the way was close, but before that, we enjoyed a great dinner at Restaurant Victoria. 

    Friday 16 September came fast. The second day of our transcribathon meeting was there. We started at 9am with the local keynote from Petko Hristov and Mila Maeva entitled « Historical Patterns of women’s labour mobility in Bulgaria before WWII and in the Era of Socialism ». They showed us the evolution of women’s labour mobility across historical times. As main conclusions we learnt that women play a slightly more active role than men in internal and, on average, external migration; women in rural areas are more active in internal migration than women in urban areas, and the proportion of urban women who migrated out of the country was smaller than the rural women. Of course, it was also highlighted that women’s movements depend on the political, social, and economic situation. The end of socialism was a crucial time for women, as they started moving abroad alone, changing the migration model. Finally, the women movements in historical aspect are still a less studied topic, and ask to be deepened.  

    Picture 8: Mila Maeva and Petko Hristov 

    After a short discussion, it was time to learn where and how to look for data on women’s migration and women migrants. Around 10am, Selma Smajlović and Nina Drejerska from WG3 presented “Dataset transcribathon: a first approach”. Thanks to their guidance, we learnt how to search for data using keywords in national statistical offices; websites; data repositories; etc. The main purpose of the task is to characterize women migration in Europe, namely the scale and trends, presenting basic socio-economic indicators. 

    After a short coffee break, we continued our journey with the presentation of Bénédicte Miyamoto (WG2) entitled “Landmark transcribathon”. We learnt about the tools for harvesting landmarks (academic bibliographies; corpus of lists, surveys, and indexes; geolocalisation tools as search engines). WG2 has gathered almost 700 landmarks of women migrants’ commemorations across COST members, and a part of them are visible on our website (the working group is editing the rest to add on the map). This in-person landmark transcribathon was the perfect way to activate the members of the network so all of us can contribute to the map. To make this easier, Lívia Prosinger (WG2) introduced a new Landmark Register Google Form, which several people could fill out at the same time, the results were immediately visible on the screen, and could be discussed immediately. 

    Picture 9: WG2 Transcribathon 

    ​Around 12:30 we were all finding our way to the restaurant. Even the rain that made us move from the terrace to the indoor area could not stop us from enjoying another amazing meal. After lunch time we continued to perform the task that had been assigned to us: harvesting landmarks. To do so, we benefited from all the support offered by Bénédicte Miyamoto. She was online, on Zoom, but thanks to all the technical support from the local organizers, the hybrid conference worked perfectly. 

    Around 3:30pm was Stellamarina Donato’s (WG4) turn. She presented very useful tips and strategies on how and where to find milestones during her presentation entitled: “Milestones transcribathon”. The hour that followed was marked by a pleasant and cooperative work environment in which everyone helped each other.  

    The last panel consisted of the presentation of “WG4 interviews” by Sonia Ferreira (WG4). WG4 is working on two different types of video interviews of women migrants: short capsules to be released on our website, and a 50mn documentary. WG4 has added two projects: a virtual exhibition and an edited volume on objects of migration. WG4 has started shooting interviews and some are being edited (objective from their first in-person meeting in June 2022). They are working towards data preservation at the moment. So, the first step will be to add capsules of interviews on the network’s website map of interviews, and then gather shots for a 50 minutes long documentary. 

    Before the amazing dinner we had in Shtastlivetsa Restaurant at Vitosha Boulevard, the main commercial street in the centre of Sofia, we had the privilege of enjoying the second part of the guided tour by Petko Hristov through other emblematic places of Sofia.  

    Picture 10: Sveta Nedelya Church, Sofia 

    This special, cooperative meeting in Sofia gave us many emotional moments, it helped the integration of our new members and made the cooperation of our working groups stronger. These two days went by so quickly, but we are looking forward to meeting again in Lisbon where our third annual meeting will be held in February 2023.   ​