[Conference Paper] Ladino and Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria: Focus on one language (Ladino), fieldwork in another (Bulgarian), and analysis and presentation in a third (English)

Richard J. Fay, Leah Davcheva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Paper 4 of colloquium Doing Research Multilingually: Diverse Approaches and Representational ChoicesWe are engaged in an ongoing narrative study of the perceptions of mainly elderly Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria regarding the language often referred to as Ladino but which they tend to term Judesmo. As a research team, we bring different perspectives and areas of expertise to bear in this study. Leah is herself of Sephardic Jewish background, a Bulgarian national, and Ladino was sometimes spoken in her family and the Jewish community of which it was part. Fluent in English as well as Bulgarian, Leah is also more of a field insider with some prior experience of narrative research. In contrast, Richard has no Sephardic Jewish, Ladino, or Bulgarian background but is more centrally-located in English-medium narrative research. Together, we share a broad range of cultural and intercultural interests in the Balkans including Ladino (albeit we recognise that our lack of fluency in this language makes for further linguistic complexity). There are clearly asymmetries here but our diverse attributes enrich, we believe, the collaborative research endeavour. In this paper, we will be outlining how our interest in the perspectives of our storytellers on Ladino has been undertaken through narrative fieldwork conducted largely in Bulgarian and then analysed largely in English. This brief outline glosses very quickly over the linguistic complexities this involves. Therefore, in this paper we will present in more detail what we did and why we did so. Through reflection on our experience of ‘doing research multilingually’ (DRM), we hope to tease out some of the insights that our research practices may offer regarding such multilingual complexities, challenges and also opportunities for researchers. Driven by a need for reflexive transparency in our research texts about this study, we will outline how we are attempting to manage these complexities, challenges and possibilities in our writing to date.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2011
EventBAAL 2011 annual conference - University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
Duration: 1 Sept 20113 Sept 2011


ConferenceBAAL 2011 annual conference
CityUniversity of the West of England, Bristol, UK


  • developing researcher competence, doing research multilingually, reciprocal reflexivity, Ladino, identity-play, sephardic, Bulgaria


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