The Thirteenth Annual Graduate Student Essay Prize of 2021 is awarded to Alexandra Ciocănel, a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at the University of Manchester with the dissertation ‘Making Futures through Assets: Navigating Housing Market’s Timescapes in Bucharest’. Alexandra’s winning essay, ‘Making Markets’, traces the making of the residential real estate and mortgage markets in postsocialist Romania focusing on the privatization of the state-owned housing sector during the 1990s, the expansion of the mortgage market with the privatization of and Romania’s accession into the European Union during the early 2000s, and the reorganization of the real estate market involving both tighter regulations and state-guaranteed mortgages after the financial crisis of 2008. Given the growing importance of housing’s exchange value in contrast with both its use-value and financial value, the paper suggests assetization as a better conceptual frame than that of financialization that is pervasive in the recent social analyses of real estate markets.
The Committee concluded that Alexandra’s essay is topical, well-informed and maintains a good critical outlook on both the social processes analyzed and the theories invoked. Alexandra demonstrates a good command of the existing literature, familiarity with the economic and political history of the period and a good capacity to theorize based on empirical research. She unveils one of the most pervasive processes playing into the formation of the middle class in postsocialist Romania. Alexandra’s dissertation shows the promise of high intellectual achievement and genuine critical thinking and is the deserving winner of this year’s competition.
The committee awarded an Honorable Mention to Iemima Ploscariu who got her PhD in history in 2021 from Dublin City University with the dissertation ‘A Dappled People: Jewish, Roma, and Romanian Evangelicals Challenging Nationalism in Interwar Romania’. Iemima’s essay, ‘Motley Repertoires and the Performative Power of Music’, is a thoroughly researched and wonderfully written historical account of the role of church music in the articulation of evangelical communities in interwar Romania. Informative, engaging and very pleasant to read, the essay teaches the reader about the overlapping religious, ethnic and gender identities and the circulation of music and believers across social domains during a period when Romanian authorities emphasized the national dimension of identity.
SRS Essay Prize Committee Members:
Corina Doboș, Simona Livescu, Narcis Tulbure (Chair)