Committee: Roland Clark (chair), Margaret Beissinger, Oana Armeanu.
The SRS awarded the 2013 graduate student essay prize to Dr. Florin Poenaru, who successfully defended his PhD in Sociology to Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, in October 2013. The ten submissions considered for this year’s prize included a number of outstanding essays and the committee was at times fascinated, horrified, intrigued, and impressed by the findings of these authors. Poenaru’s contribution entitled “The Illusion of Anti-Communism: Articulating Anti-Hegemonic Struggles in Post-Communism” stood out for its clarity, originality, extensive research, and theoretical depth. A chapter of the author’s PhD dissertation on intellectual debates in contemporary Romania, the essay explores the challenges faced by young intellectuals disillusioned with the mainstream critiques of the country’s communist past. Poenaru uses a collected volume entitled Iluzia anti-comunismului: lecturi critice ale Raportului Tismăneanu (Chişinău: Cartier, 2008) as a case study of conflict between politically, economically, and socially influential intellectuals and a group of much younger but passionate and articulate writers. Studying networks of intellectuals as they compete for hegemony over limited resources, Poenaru exposes the limits of Romania’s post-Socialist public sphere and the impact of a transitional market economy on intellectual discourse. He shows how members of the younger generation are forming alliances with their elders to generate a conversation based on universal and standardized values that challenges the celebrity culture of mainstream anti-communism. Writing on a delicate and highly politicized subject, Poenaru’s approach is balanced, sophisticated, and highly analytical. On behalf of the SRS the committee would like to congratulate Dr. Poenaru!