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Vol. 2, No. 1 (2020)

Journal of Romanian Studies, 2, no. 1 (2020)

Editors: Peter Gross, Diane Vancea, Iuliu Raţiu

Contents

Articles

Alexandra Chiriac

Ephemeral Modernisms, Transnational Lives: Reconstructing Avant-Garde Performance in Bucharest (pp. 9-34)

During the mid-1920s Bucharest became home to the Vilna Troupe, an ensemble formed in Vilnius in 1915 and famed for its ground-breaking Yiddish-language productions that toured all over the world. Its collaborations with the Romanian artist M. H. Maxy are the subject of this essay, which demonstrates the experimental nature of several productions that took place in Bucharest during this period. New research material from sources on both sides of the Atlantic makes it possible to reconstruct the outputs of this richly innovative partnership to a much greater extent than before, demonstrating that the vitality of avant-garde theatre in Bucharest has been heretofore underestimated by scholars, its existence obscured by the ephemerality of the performative and by its unwieldy transnational trajectory. An earlier version of this essay won the Graduate Student Essay Prize offered in 2018 by the Society for Romanian Studies.

Petru Negură

Compulsory Primary Education and State Building in Rural Bessarabia (1918-1940) (pp. 35-58)

This article examines the way in which public primary education was established in rural Bessarabia during 1918-1940. The imposition of mass compulsory education resulted from an unequal relationship of power between the state education authorities and the village population, which at times conflicted and at other times negotiated with each other. This process was crucial for the expansion of the state in rural areas and the development of citizenship among the civilian population of what was at the time a new Romanian province. Yet, primary schooling did not succeed entirely, due to the resistance of the rural population, the indetermination of state agents, and the lack of institutional infrastructure.

Vladimir Solonari

Record Weak: Romanian Judiciary in Occupied Transnistria (pp. 59-82)

This article explores the role of the Romanian judiciary in occupied Transnistria in 1940-1944. Based on a wide array of sources from American, Israeli, Romanian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan archives, the article focuses on the role of the judiciary in the fight against official corruption and administrative abuse, enforcement of legal norms in the fight against pro-Soviet guerrilla groups, and curtailment of violence against Jews. In these areas the Romanian judiciary had a weak record. Not only did they fail to fight official corruption and administrative abuse effectively, but Romanian prosecutors and courts were notoriously corrupt themselves. While military magistrates on duty in Transnistria refrained from imposing harsh sentences on suspected partisans, they looked another way when gendarmes murdered partisans under the pretense of attempted escape. Romanian prosecutors sometimes investigated the illegal appropriation of Jewish possessions by the guards, they never concerned themselves with their mass murder.

Delia Popescu

A Political Palimpsest: Nationalism and Faith in Petre Țuțea’s Thinking (pp. 83-108)

This article examines the political thinking of Petre Țuțea, a noteworthy public figure in post-1989 Romania. I develop Țuțea’s views as a significant instance of a reconstructive nationalist imaginary “for all seasons”: a radical religious ethno-nationalism that both transcends its pre-communist roots and conceals its continuity during communism in order to be recast as a suitable post-communist alternative. Țuțea samples radicalism on both sides of the political spectrum and ultimately embraces the mystical, elitist, nationalist ideology that distills the protochronic nuance of much of Romanian political life.

Cynthia M. Horne

What Is too Long and When Is too Late for Transitional Justice? Observations from the Case of Romania (pp. 109-138)

Nearly 30 years after the end of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime, what is too long and when is too late to use public disclosures about secret police complicity in the past to influence the composition of public office holders in the present? This article examines Romania’s public disclosure measures from 2010 to the present, drawing on the reports of the secret police file repository agency—the C.N.S.A.S.—in order to better understand the temporal parameters surrounding their continued use. First, the article shows that despite contentions that there are no more spies left to unmask, Romania’s vetting process continues to disclose the collaborator backgrounds of current political candidates, at both the national and local levels, and individuals being considered for appointments in high-ranking political and social institutions. Second, contrary to expectations that citizens might be too fatigued with the public disclosure process to consider them politically salient, citizen engagement with their personal files remains robust. Together, these findings suggest that preconceived temporal parameters for this type of transitional justice measure might have underestimated the duration of its utility and political relevance.

Brindusa Armanca and Peter Gross

Searching for a Future: Mass Media and the Uncertain Construction of Democracy in Romania (pp. 139-162)

To date, Romania’s democracy and the news media’s professionalization have not met indigenous and foreign expectations, as both have failed to assume their social responsibility. The persistent crisis in ethics, enveloped in the illiberal culture and political culture, is victimizing democratization and the media’s independence and professionalization and, thus, their ability to serve the still ongoing democratic transformation. This article chronicles the crisis, its causes and outcomes. Finally, it concludes that the country’s emerging civil society, coupled with the small groups of independent, professionalizing media and journalists are the key to the country’s liberal democratic future.

Book Reviews

Ionuț Butoi, Mircea Vulcănescu. O microistorie a interbelicului românesc.
(Review by Emanuel Copilaş)


Henry P. Rammelt, Activistes protestataires en Hongrie et en Roumanie.
(Review by Dana S. Trif)

Back Issues

Volume 2 (2020)

No. 1 Spring

No. 2 Special issue: Law, History and Justice in Romania. New Directions in Law and Society Research

Volume 1 (2019)

No. 1 Spring

No. 2 Special issue: Romania and the Paris Peace Conference (1919). Actors, Scenarios, Circulation of Knowledge

Vol. 2, No. 2 (2020)

Journal of Romanian Studies, 2, no. 2 (2019)

Special issue: Law, History and Justice in Romania. New Directions in Law and Society Research

Guest Editors: Mihaela Șerban and Monica Ciobanu

Editors: Peter Gross, Diane Vancea, Iuliu Raţiu

Contents

Articles

Mihaela Șerban and Monica Ciobanu

Law, History and Justice in Romania. New Directions in Law and Society Research (pp. 9-23)

This special issue of the Journal of Romanian Studies examines law as a social institution and the ways in which it intersects with the larger social, historical, political and economic world. While the articles included here mostly explore the intersections between law, history, and justice, they consciously reject positivist and doctrinal analyses of law and an understanding of law as primarily a (repressive) instrument of the state. Instead, we focus on “living law” and the complex interactions between law and social issues, including how law is created, interpreted and implemented, and how individuals and organizations live, shape and evade it in everyday interactions within and outside of the state. We also want to situate this flourishing area of research not only within broader fields, such as transitional justice and legal history, but also in the expansive law and society tradition that has been open to interdisciplinary legal research worldwide, but is perhaps less well known in Romania.

Cosmin Cercel

Reversing Liberal Legality: Romania’s Path to Dictatorship, 1930-1938 (pp. 23-52)

Romania’s anti-liberal turn at the end of the interwar period is a useful case study for analysing the dissolution of the liberal nomos fostered by the Versailles arrangements against the background of the authoritarian takeover in Europe. In this article, I explore the legal and constitutional mechanisms at the core of the instauration of King’s Carol II dictatorship. I propose to do so by mapping the reconstruction of the concepts of legality and authority within the political and legal processes seeking to contest, challenge and ultimately reverse the liberal features of the constitutional armature of the Romanian state. Drawing on jurisprudence, political theory, and constitutional history, I seek to unearth the ideological underpinnings of this regime of power and to reflect on the nexus between law and anti-liberal projects of state-building at the end of the interwar period.

Ştefan Cristian Ionescu

Perceptions of Legality during the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944 (pp. 53-80)

This article examines how legality was perceived by the highest officials of Romania’s pro-Nazi Ion Antonescu regime and by a group of intellectuals (mostly jurists) closely connected with the judiciary. For Antonescu, legality meant a new type of authoritarian understanding of the role of the law in a state and its subordination to the will of the ruler; for him, legality mainly had an instrumental role. He understood his power to be discretionary and, usually, not bound by the extant law, even though he sometimes referred to the idea of constitutional order (a convenient source of legitimacy). Intellectuals, including jurists, harbored a diversity of opinions regarding legality. Some jurists supported the regime’s authoritarian legalism, or at least accepted it, while others, especially those with a more democratic mindset or belonging to minorities, perceived legality differently than Antonescu, and favored a liberal democratic version of legality involving the rule of law.

Mihaela Şerban

Litigating Identity in Fascist and Post-Fascist Romania (1940-1945) (pp. 81-108)

This paper examines legal mobilization and resistance to efforts through law to delineate ethnic identities during World War Two in Romania. Anti-Semitic legislation adopted under the fascist regime attempted to create and classify Jewish identity, while the end of war legislation formally reversed all discriminatory statutes and decrees and more broadly banned all inquiries into the ethnicity of Romanian citizens. Under both legal regimes, one’s identity, whether de jure or de facto, was decisive for repressive state policies that targeted Romanian citizens based on their ethnic identity. The concept and content of ethnic identity, however, were far from a clear matter. I explore in this paper how the local administrative court in the city of Timişoara (both first instance and appeal) constructed ethnic identity based on the wartime racial legislation, and how the court continued to apply this judge-made identity to the newly disfavored groups, primarily Germans, at the end of the war.

Monica Ciobanu

Writing History Through Trials: The Case of the National Peasant Party (pp. 109-134)

This article provides a comparative account of two criminal trials that addressed the role played by the National Peasant Party (PNŢ) in national history. The focus is on the ability of legal trials to construct historical narratives. The first was conducted in 1947 by the newly-established communist regime and resulted in the legal ban of the party. In 2015, the narrative was entirely reversed in court. The PNŢ was presented as a fully democratic actor. Alexandru Vişinescu – a former commandant of the Râmnicu-Sărat prison where prominent party leaders were subjected to repression – was sentenced for crimes against humanity. The sharp differences between these two legal proceedings – a Soviet-style show trial versus legal action that was oriented to providing some redress for the victims of communism – is emphasized.  But the conclusion is that criminal trials in general fall short in providing historical lessons and that retrospective justice does not necessarily produce reconciliation or accountability.          

Emanuela Grama

Restitution Reversal or “Re-nationalization”? An Analysis of Law, Property, and History Through the Case of the “Szekely Mikó” High School in Transylvania (pp. 135-164)

In 2002, the Reformed Church in Transylvania requested the retrocession of the Reformed Szekely Miko high school in Sf. Gheorghe/ Sepsiszentgyörgy, Covasna’s capital city. The state restitution commission at that time approved the return. In 2012, a court invalidated the initial restitution decision, accused the members of the former commission of fraud, and requested that the Church return the building to the city authorities. A close reading of the legal arguments that each party employed to justify or reject the restitution reveals competing temporalities of law and visions of history. This paper analyzes the long and tense debates around this case of property restitution – reversal, to further explore several interconnected phenomena: broader ideologies about the relationship of historical, ethnic, and property rights in contemporary Transylvania; the political mobilization of Romania’s ethnic Hungarians around property restitution; the ways in which negotiations around property propelled more conservative elites to the leadership of Transylvanian Hungarians and enabled them to strengthen their ties with their kin-state, Hungary.

Simona Livescu

Institutional Memories and Transgenerational Dynamics: The House of Terror and the Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance (pp. 165-194)

This article provides an insight into the twenty-first century politics of institutionalized memory in two former communist countries, Romania and Hungary, as illustrated by their respective human rights memorial museums’ practices of documenting communist era abuse. After discussing the ways in which the two museums under consideration here inscribe themselves into the red and dark tourism phenomena, the article focuses on acts of over-remembering and misremembering that affect the politics of museal representation, highlighting the emotional communities created by these museums as well as the incomplete representation of the victim-victimizer rapport. In doing so, the article argues that institutionalized museal interventions into recent collective national and regional memories are representative of the still undecided legacy of communism in East and Central Europe.

Dragoş Petrescu

Law in Action in Romania, 2008–2018: Context, Agency, and Innovation in the Process of Transitional Justice (pp. 195-218)

This article tackles a hitherto-unnoticed innovative mechanism of transitional justice. Creatively interpreting the legislation, CNSAS, the institution dealing with the former secret police files, gradually transformed itself from a vetting agency into a fact-finding commission. While the law restricted the meaning of collaboration, CNSAS produced an open-access electronic database including digest versions of the screening process and providing quick access to excerpts from secret police documents. This repository demonstrates the multifaceted nature of collaboration, the wide variety of information gathered and the complicity of individuals originating from all social, cultural, and professional backgrounds. The e-database created by CNSAS offers not a simple list of wrongdoers, but evidence of wrongdoings according to rule-of-law principles. In brief, this registry of shaming represents a para-legal mechanism of transitional justice, which allows moral judgement, promotes transparency, and legitimizes the mission of CNSAS in fostering democracy by widely illustrating what democracy is not.          

Book Reviews

Marian Voicu, Matrioşka Mincinoşilor: Fake News, Manipulare, Populism.
(Review by Peter Gross)


Matei Călinescu and Ion Vianu, Scrisori din exil: corespondenţă inedită.
(Review by Iuliu Raţiu)

Vol. 1, No. 1 (2019)

Journal of Romanian Studies, 1, no. 1 (2019)

Editors: Lavinia Stan, Margaret Beissiger, Radu Cinpoeş

Contents Page

Articles

Vintilă Mihăilescu

A Subjective Centenary: The Peasant Footprint in Recent Romanian History (pp. 9-34)

This article approaches Romanian history from the perspective of the peasantry. It treats the role of the peasantry throughout the modern period as well as some of the legacies it has transmitted up to the present day. The history of Romania’s peasantry is viewed in the Balkan context. Beyond various similarities and differences between the neighbouring countries, significant is the fact that the large agrarian properties lasted much longer in Romania than in the rest of the Balkans. This explains why the last great peasant revolt in the history of Europe took place in Roma‐ nia (1907) and why Romania is still the largest agrarian, rural country in Europe, with a land distribution identical to that in 1905. The article also identifies what present‐day Romanian society has inherited from this long‐ lasting peasant culture and its structural peculiarities, focusing on the broad, all‐encompassing consequences of its enduring “orality” (i.e., lack of “graphic reason”). This article was originally delivered as the first keynote address on 26 June 2018 at the triennial Society for Romanian Studies conference held in Bucharest.

Katherine Verdery

Notes on a Century of Surveillance (pp. 35-52)

The formation of Greater Romania in December 1918 entailed building up its intelligence apparatus, both foreign and internal—a development crucial to its survival in the twentieth‐century system of national states. Events during the war and provisions of the peace treaty lent special urgency to this development, for the rise of the communist movement in Russia posed grave problems for Romania’s eastern border (regularly breached by both refugees and communist agents), and revisions of the border with Hungary increased the threat of Hungarian irredentism. The intelligence services were once again challenged by World War II and the communist takeover; the events of 1989 repeated these challenges. To examine this series of transformations is to ask, among other things, what it means for the form of the state or its ruling regime to change. The paper, delivered as a keynote address at the 2018 international conference organized by the Society for Romanian Studies in Bucharest, explores continuities across these various transitions.

Dennis Deletant

Shattered Illusions: Britain and Iuliu Maniu, 1940–1945 (pp. 53-76)

During World War II the military situation was never conducive to a defection strategy for Romania. Fear of the Soviet Union had driven Romania into alliance with Nazi Germany and the threat posed by the former continued to cast a shadow over the British Government’s efforts to persuade Romania’s leaders to steer the country to abandon the Axis. For the British, Iuliu Maniu, the leader of the National Peasant Party, was the pivotal point for any action against the regime of Ion Antonescu. This article uses documents from the British Foreign Office and the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) to trace the British perception of Maniu in 1940–1945, and the steps taken by the Foreign Office and the SOE to maintain contact with him and to encourage him to bring about  the overthrow of Antonescu.

Maria Bucur

The Queen Is No Sister: Three Faces of Marie of Romania (pp. 77-104)

This essay provides a gender analysis of Queen Marie of Romania’s autobiographical works to ask how we can best make sense of this complex and much discussed historical character during World War I as a woman of her time. My focus will be on her work as a politician/diplomat during the war; her efforts on behalf of the military campaign, particularly medical aid and other related services; and her relationship with the feminists who sought to gain the vote during the war. My conclusions offer some appreciative, though overall critical evaluations of the efforts Marie of Romania made in terms of using her dynastic position and popularity on behalf of other women.

Marius Stan and Vladimir Tismăneanu

Stalinism and Anti‐Stalinism in Romania: The Case of Alexandru Jar Revisited (pp. 105-122)

Communist writer Alexandru Jar (or Solomon Iacob, “Paşchela” for friends, 1911–1988) is the most prominent Romanian case of disenchantment with Stalinism. The 1956 “Jar Affair,” as it came to be known in Romania and abroad, reveals the persistence of the Stalinist engagement of the Romanian communist leadership under Gheorghe Gheorghiu‐Dej (1901–1965). By singling out Jar, a veteran party member and a former French Resistance fighter, the hegemonic nucleus within the Romanian Workers’ Party succeeded in neutralizing political and intellectual challenges similar to those in Poland and Hungary. Based on newly discovered materials in the archives of the Romanian Communist Party’s Central Committee, including Jar’s party file and his numerous letters asking for political rehabilitation, this study offers a novel interpretation of the relationship between party leadership and intellectual unrest in Romania during the hectic year 1956. The authors explore the “Jar Affair” in a comparative, transnational historical perspective meant to highlight the complexities of political awakening in the aftermath of Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech. The article adds significantly to the understanding of the dialectics of de‐Stalinization in East‐Central Europe.

Book Reviews

Katherine Verdery, My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File.
(Review by Radu Cinpoeş)


Cristian Vasile ed., “Ne trebuie oameni!’’: Elite intelectuale şi transformări istorice în România modern şi contemporană.
(Review by Roland Clark)


Ioana Em. Petrescu & Liviu Petrescu, Scrisori Americane (1981‐1983), ed. Ioana Bot.

(Review by Iuliu Raţiu)



Bruce O’Neill, The Space of Boredom. Homelessness in the Slowing Global Order.
(Review by Petru Negură)

2015 Book Prize

The Society for Romanian Studies announces the winner of the Third Biennial SRS Book Prize for 2015: Sean Cotter’s Literary Translation and the Idea of a Minor Romania (Rochester, 2014). The book prize committee, consisting of Holly Case (Cornell, History, Chair), James Augerot (University of Washington, Slavic Languages and Literatures) and Vladimir Solonari (University of Central Florida, History) solicited nominations for the best book published in English in any field of Romanian studies (including Moldova) in the humanities or social sciences.

The books this year were of very high quality. In the end, Sean Cotter’s book stood out as an exceptional example of rigorous scholarship and original argument. The book wonders “Under what conditions could literary translation move to the center of the national imagination?” To do so, he makes the “minor” status of Romanian culture into an interpretive mechanism, largely through following the careers of Lucian Blaga, Constantin Noica, and Emil Cioran in the aftermath of the Second World War. Being minor is not merely a matter of size or scale, but a matter of nature and type, a “translated nation,” as he calls it. The Soviet occupation prompted Cotter’s protagonists to “rethink the country in minor terms.” Tracing literary debates, personal dilemmas, and translations of their work and ideas both within and beyond Romania, Cotter shows that the essence of “minor” cultures can be read through careful analysis of translation practices.


The committee also recognizes Moshe Idel’s Mircea Eliade: From Magic to Myth (Peter Lang, 2013) with an honorable mention. Idel presents Eliade in an admiring light, yet does not hesitate to include the various blemishes in the wide-ranging career of one of the best-known Romanian writers of the twentieth Century.

2013 Book Prize

The Society for Romanian Studies is pleased to award the 2013 Society for Romanian Studies Biennial Book Prize to Peasants under Siege: the Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), by Gail Kligman and Katherine VerderyPeasants under Siege was selected from among a very strong field of English language books which appeared between January 2011 and December 2012.  Entries for the prize included a large number of excellent works from multiple disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. 

The prize selection committee appreciated the scope and rigor of the research undertaking upon which Peasants under Siege is based. The book builds upon the authors’ decades of experience doing field research in rural Romania. Kligman and Verdery make use of multiple types of sources, including archives, the communist press and extensive interviews, to analyze the relationship between the collectivization of agriculture in Romania and the process of party and state building that transformed the countryside and Romanian society as a whole. The authors stress that in the process of collectivization, the Party apparatus and the Securitate were not only changing property relations according to the Soviet model but also creating the new institutions of the Party-state through local practices and policies they devised in and for Romania. An important part of the documentary research that underpins the study was carried out in the Securitate archives (CNSAS). The authors’ field work, along with that of the other nineteen researchers from various disciplines who collaborated on the project, provides a wealth of intimate detail from the point of view of the participants in the collectivization process that refines and modifies the picture that emerges from Party reports and similar documentary sources. 

In sum, Peasants under Siege represents a central contribution to the literature on Romania during the communist period, and indeed on the history of collectivization in other contexts, as well. Because the communist past is an ongoing battlefield in the present-day politics of memory in Romania, an accurate history establishing the extent of participation in and the full range of responses to collectivization is all the more important.  Kligman and Verdery demonstrate with great subtlety the particular ways in which the Soviet model was carried out in the particular Romanian context. As the authors write: “Blueprints may provide a plan, but social practices are not so easily hammered or welded into place.” In Romania collectivization was as much negotiated as it was violent. The authors skillfully reconstruct what it created (a new kind of state, society and “person”) while simultaneously offering a full account of what it destroyed (communities and lives).

This beautifully conceived and clearly written work of history, anthropology and sociology shows how fruitful it can be to ignore the boundaries between disciplines in the interest of gaining insight into the fraught nexus between society and state. Peasants under Siege will provide a valuable guide to scholars seeking to understand rural transformation in the region for years to come, and serve as a primary reference point for those wishing to understand what really happened in the long decade of the 1950s in Romania, and what it meant for those who lived it.

The 2013 SRS Biennial Book Prize Selection Committee:  William Crowther, (chair), Holly Case and Valentina Glajar.

2015 Graduate Student Essay Prize

Committee: Delia Popescu (Chair), Inessa Medzhibovskaya, and Benjamin Thorne.

The committee evaluated ten entries, most of which were high quality historical or sociological work. Ion Matei Costinescu won the prize with his “Interwar Romania and the Greening of the Iron Cage: The Biopolitics of Dimitrie Gusti, Virgil Madgearu, Mihail Manoilescu, and Ştefan Zeletin.” This is a chapter from his dissertation on The Village as Quest for Modernity: The Bucharest Sociological School and the Romanian Alternative Way, which he has been completing at the University of Bucharest. The dissertation explores the work of the Bucharest Sociological School in interwar Romania to propose an “alternative modernity project configured along biopolitical lines.” Costinescu offers a constructivist twist to a Weberian argument by recasting the notion of the iron cage in the terms of the Bucharest Sociological School. The chapter offers an impressive critical assessment of alternate visions of modernity, which propose the biopolitical transformation of the people, and the creation of a new national ethos infused with a mythos of superior moral and ethnic value. Costinescu suggests that the Weberian model was adapted to accommodate such a new vision of the state imbued with a new and mobilizing “secular magic” of Romanian nationalism. The essay leads with a robust critical argument that is well developed, interesting, and contributes to developments in the field. The strong theoretical focus of the piece offers a much needed and nuanced addition to the small but extremely important literature on Romanian biopolitics by focusing on the latter half of the compound term, politics. It is an important intervention that both deepens and expands our knowledge of the period, is well-researched and engagingly written. Many congratulations to Ion Matei Costinescu for a fascinating essay!

Honorable mentions

Madalina Valeria Veres’ “Constructing Imperial Spaces: Habsburg Cartography in the Age of Enlightenment” is an important contribution to the study of historiography and the geopolitics of space in Central and Eastern Europe. Her imaginative and objective interpretation is based on the examination of rare archival material, which is organized with impeccable fairness and scholarly tact. This beautifully written piece is a comprehensive and compelling presentation of patterns by means of which constructs enter politics, a sobering invitation to take nothing for granted– and to reinvigorate the analysis of what appears to be a closed topic. The submission is part of her doctoral dissertation, titled Mastering Space: The Great Military Map of Transylvania, which she is completing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Zsuzsanna Magdo’s “Ceausescu’s Thaw and Religiosity: The Central Committee Considers Atheism, 1965-1974” examines the sort of political dialectic occasioned by the encounter of communist state policy and Romanian cultural religiosity. The essay makes use of archival documents from the Department of Religious Cults, the Committee of Historical Monuments, and the Ministry of Culture, to propose a compelling and sophisticated analysis of the “religion question” in the autochthonous modernity project delineated by the Romanian communist state. Magdo offers an interesting and well-researched historiography with a strong argument that leads to a rich picture that traces historical developments and transformations in the context of communist ideological development. Magdo recasts the politico-ideological interchange between Marxism, modernity, and national spiritual life. The clear and prominent integration of archival material on Agitprop is a particular highlight of the essay, and Magdo succeeds in being both informative, analytical, and infusing the occasional sense of humor, which smooth the way to an enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of reading.  Magdo’s entry is part of her dissertation, The Socialist Sacred: Atheism, Religion, and Culture in Communist Romania, 1948-1989, which she is completing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

2014 Graduate Student Essay Prize

The Sixth Annual Graduate Student Essay Prize was presented to Roxana Lucia Cazan for her “Jewish Motherhood, Heritage, and Post-memory in Anca Vlasopolos’s No Return Address and Haya Leah Molnar’s Under a Red Sky,” a chapter from her dissertation on Contested Motherhood: The Politics of Gender, Ethnicity, and Identity in Contemporary Romanian-American Literature and Culture, which she has been completing at Indiana University Bloomington. Oscillating between disciplines and geographical scales, Cazan’s essay gave a truly transnational, comparative, and global edge to Romanian Studies. Cazan examined the meaning of motherhood in a complex prism of Romanian state communism, Jewish identity, the Shoah, communist pro-natalism and post-memory. The essay was impressive both for its conceptual approach and its contents. We learn about two fascinating books by Anca Vlasopolos (No Return to Address: Memoir of a Deplacement) and Haya Leah Molnar (Under a Red Sky: Memoir of A Childhood in Communist Romania), which, in turn, entices the reader to discover and read these books independently. Dealing with two periods of repression – the Fascist period (1920s-1940s) and the early Communist period (1950s-1960s) – Cazan reflects on identity, gender, and memory. What does a memoir by a Romanian Jewish émigré tell us about modern Romanian history, society, and debates about the past? Quite a lot: Cazan’s piece challenges more comfortable boundaries of what constitutes Romanian Studies. Not only is her work interdisciplinary, but the subject matter under investigation highlights that ‘Romanian Studies’ has a global, transnational dimension to it, and thus forces us to re-examine what and where the boundaries of Romanian Studies lie. The author and protagonist of the first novel under investigation (Vlasopolos) is a point in case: a Romanian Jew of Greek origin who leaves Romania with her mother in the early Communist period having lived through the earlier Fascist period. They end up in Detroit, via Western Europe, where Vlasopolos marries a German-American and starts a family. In this intricate web of travel, exile, and memory, Vlasopolos writes her memoir reflecting on a ruptured 20th century. Such stories and Cazan’s masterful analysis compel us to think of Romanian Studies not as an isolated field, but one that is marked by war, exile, movement, cross-border experience and multifaceted identity. Interdisciplinary and very ‘fuzzy round the edges’, Cazan’s work reminds SRS how exciting, diverse, and multifarious research in and around Romanian Studies is. Long may it continue.

2013 Graduate Student Essay Prize

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!

2012 Graduate Student Essay Prize

Committee: Margaret Beissinger, James Koranyi, and Paul Sum.

The Fourth Graduate Student Essay Award was presented at the 2012 ASEEES conference in New Orleans, LA to Jonathan Stillo (City University of New York) for his outstanding essay titled “We are the losers of Socialism”: Tuberculosis, Social Cases and Limits of Care in Romania’. A doctoral student in Cultural Anthropology at the City University of New York, Jonathan exposes the complex relationships between the state’s “social contract,” former middle-class industrial workers, and social care in post-1989 Romania. Based on two years of fieldwork, including a six-month stint living in a TB sanatorium, Jonathan presents a trenchant and revealing analysis of tuberculosis in post-socialist Romania. He effectively incorporates the testimonies of those affected by the social issues that surround tuberculosis in contemporary Romania, showcasing the disturbing and dismal plight of the victims of TB. The project that Jonathan has tackled is challenging, yet his findings are striking and indeed moving, as he places the individual voices of those who treat as well as endure TB at the very centre of his analyses. Jonathan introduces, for example, a fraught nurse in Northern Moldova attempting to help a middle-aged TB sufferer and alcoholic. He includes other equally harrowing narratives of broken individuals such as Tudor who, at the age of fifty, has been homeless for twelve years without any social network to support him. In short, Jonathan assembles a meticulously researched mosaic, which informs broader debates on health and society in contemporary post-socialist Europe and indeed the wider world. The research presented in this essay is much-needed and promises to generate additional work that will comprise important contributions to the field. The SRS Graduate Student Essay Prize committee was unanimous in selecting Jonathan’s work as the very best from a truly excellent array of submitted essays. It is clear from Jonathan’s findings and his writing that a great deal of both academic and emotional labour has gone into his work, and for this he is hugely deserving of the 2012 Graduate Student Essay Prize of the Society for Romanian Studies.