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2010 Graduate Student Essay Prize

The Second Graduate Student Essay Prize was presented to Anca Mandru (University of Illinois) for her paper “Recurrent, Integrative, and Anti-Statist? Cultural Nationalism as Embodied in the Summer School at Valenii de Munte, Romania (1908-1940).” The essay was chosen because of its excellent style, grounded connections to theory, and overall contribution to the field of Romanian Studies. The goal of the paper is to apply John Hutchinson’s theory of cultural nationalism to the case of a series of summer schools organized by Nicolae Iorga at Valenii de Munte before and during the Greater Romania period between the World Wars. The case study also tests the validity of Hutchinson’s model. The essay is clearly and engagingly written, providing substantial background on both the relevant theories of nationalism and the historical context of the treated summer schools. The discussion and conclusions highlight how the summer schools contributed to the historical and political events of the time in considerable detail, however the essay remains accessible and informative even for the non-specialized reader. The essay is an outstanding example of how a case study can inform both historical knowledge and broader theoretical concerns. For this reason, Mandru’s essay stood out for all evaluators as the winner. The paper examines the summer school organized by the Romanian nationalist historian and politician Nicolae Iorga at Valenii de Munte in the interwar period from the perspective of John Hutchinson’s theory of cultural nationalism. Iorga’s summer school is here used as a case-study for testing the theory’s main premises, namely the recurrent, integrative and anti-statist character of cultural nationalism. Examining the challenges posed by the creation of Greater Romania and the subsequent integration of minorities and Romanians from the new provinces in the new state, the paper argues that Iorga’s otherwise traditional ideology was nevertheless integrative, aiming at creating a unified national culture. While Iorga’s project was characterized by strong anti-statist rhetoric, this paper argues that in fact the survival of cultural nationalism in the form promoted by the summer school at Valenii de Munte depended on support from, and cooperation with, the authorities, thus undermining John Hutchinson’s assumption of the essentially adversarial relation between cultural nationalism and the state. Anca Mandru is a doctoral student in History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She holds a Master’s degree in Central European History from the Central European University in Budapest and a Bachelor’s degree in History from the American University in Bulgaria. She has received numerous awards related to her outstanding academic work, has presented two conference papers, and has a research article under review at a major journal. Her winning essay was written in the Spring Semester, 2010, for a course entitled “Introduction to Historical Writing.”


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