International Sociology and International Sociology Reviews

Topic of the Month, July 2022

‘Transnational communities’ is our Topic of the Month for July 2022. On this topic, enjoy Free Access to this article by Ana Velitchkova (University of Mississippi, USA) published in International Sociology, Rationalization of belonging: Transnational community endurance. Read on to know more about the author’s trajectory and work.

Ana Velitchkova

Why are you working on this topic? Could you share an experience, a fact, or a person who made you get engaged in that research?

A Velitchkova: I started studying the Esperanto movement after finding out it was the movement with the highest number of transnational social movement organizations with Eastern European membership in the second half of the twentieth century. This fact puzzled me. As an Eastern European, I wanted to know which movements were active in Eastern Europe under state socialism. I expected to see the human rights movement, the environmental movement, and the peace movement as prominent in the data but not Esperanto. I knew of the Esperanto language, as my mom had studied it as a student, but I did not know that there was an Esperanto movement and that it was that important, at least according to the numbers. I wondered why the social movement literature I was familiar with – which mostly focuses on the United States and on Western Europe – had not paid attention to it. My intellectual curiosity would not let go of this puzzling fact and of this gap in the literature upon which I had stumbled. I had to figure out what was going on. The Esperanto movement, it turned out, is different from other movements in that its goal is not to challenge existing authority (although it has done that albeit often inadvertently) but to build community. This community building effort, and its success, in turn, challenged another set of ideas about which I had become accustomed to reading and hearing, namely that community was on the decline. Esperanto offers evidence to the contrary. Esperanto, however, is not the only example of intentional rational community efforts. Hence, I propose that community can endure as belonging becomes rationalized globally. For folks struggling to find community, the answer may involve rational and intentional effort. And it’s kind of fascinating that this insight comes through a movement that originated in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century and that became especially prominent under state socialism.

What would you emphasize about your academic trajectory? Can you highlight which have been your academic positions, universities, awards, departments and research centers?

A Velitchkova: I became a sociologist later than most as I struggled to make sense of the big contradictions to which my life experiences exposed me, most notably the failures of Eastern European state socialism, dissatisfaction with the transitions to democracy and capitalism, 9/11, and the war in Iraq. My linguistic and literature training did not provide sufficient answers for why these monumental events happened. I decided to pursue a PhD in sociology and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame. Upon completing my studies, I held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES), supported by the University of Chile and by the Catholic University of Chile, in Santiago, Chile. Currently, I am jointly appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi.

Do you want to add any other information?

A Velitchkova: You could perhaps include a link to my personal website: