Fragile Responsibilization: Rights and Risks in the Bulgarian Response to Covid-19


  • Todor Hristov University of Sofia



Biopolitics, Responsibilization, Control, Risk, Right to health, Covid-19, Bulgaria


This article discusses the Bulgarian response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bulgarian case is characterized by an ineffective constitution of the individuals as subjects of responsibility for the health of the population, which resulted in a vaccine coverage considerably lower than the European average. The article argues that the fragile responsibilization is an effect of the response to the pandemic that, building on older post-socialist regulations of the access to healthcare, instead of restricting the circulation of bodies in general, tried to differentiate between economically productive and unproductive circulation and to limit only the latter by progressively increasing its differential costs (both in terms of time and efforts and in terms of risks). An analysis of the legal actions against quarantine violators, however, suggests that such a strategy stimulated the public to respond to the pandemic by calculating risks, and if the social actors nevertheless behaved irresponsibly, it was often because they took into account not only the risks posed by the virus but also smaller-scale risks affecting their social support networks. The authorities, however, tried to repair the unreliable responsibilization by articulating an ad hoc right to health defined at the level of the population. That biopolitical right to health was crucial to the implementation of certificate requirements. It was harmonized with individual rights by opening up fields of choice such as the choice between vaccination and daily testing. However, since the differential costs of the higher-risk options seemed irrational, the constellation of individual rights and right to health left a growing residue of irresponsible conducts justifying a further intensification of control.

Author Biography

Todor Hristov, University of Sofia

Todor Hristov teaches critical theory and media studies at the University of Sofia and sociology at the University of Plovdiv. His research interests are in the fields of biopolitics, governmentality studies, historical sociology and cultural studies. He is the author of Impossible Knowledge: Conspiracy Theories, Power and Truth. London and New York: Routledge, 2019, and one of the editors of Plots: Literary Form and Conspiracy Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 2021.


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How to Cite

Hristov, T. (2023). Fragile Responsibilization: Rights and Risks in the Bulgarian Response to Covid-19. Foucault Studies, (35), 97–121.



Special Issue: Biopolitical Tensions after Pandemic Times