Cristian Cercel, Romania and the Quest for European Identity. Philo-germanism without Germans, London and New York, Routledge, 2019.
Exploring the largely positive representations of Romanian Germans predominating in post-1989 Romanian society, this book shows that the underlying reasons for German prestige are strongly connected with Romania’s endeavors to become European. […] Cercel argues that representations of Germans in Romania, descendants of twelfth-century and eighteenth-century colonists, become actually a symbolic resource for asserting but also questioning Romania’s European identity. Such representations link Romania’s much-desired European belonging with German presence, whilst German absence is interpreted as a sign of veering away from Europe. Investigating this case of discursive “self-colonization” and this apparent symbolic embrace of the German Other in Romania, the book offers a critical study of the discourses associated with Romania’s postcommunist “Europeanization” to contribute a better understanding of contemporary West-East relationships in the European context.”
(from the publisher’s web page)
What people are saying about it:
”[The] book […] marks an important step forward in understanding complex processes such as Europeanization, cultural interaction, and social change. Beginning with the subtitle, Cercel put[s] forward a puzzling problem when it comes to explaining […]philo-Germanism without Germans in Romania. By emphasizing this issue, Cercel attempts to grasp a very broad perspective by moving from the peculiar electoral curiosity of ethnic Romanians electing a German candidate in a medium-size town in Transylvania, to the way westernization and Europeanization concur in shaping Romanian identity. The preference for an ethnic German candidate in a city almost deserted by its German-speaking citizens sheds light on the broader phenomenon of intimate self-colonization, fueled by a power discourse on the shaping of Romanian identity as forged by numerous interactions and representations in a very complex ethnic, social, and political environment. […] The current philo-Germanism without Germans is strongly connected with Romanian aspirations toward Europeanization, an effort to overcome cultural, social, and political dilemmas of being caught between east and west.” (Dragoș Dragoman, Slavic Review)
”The volume informs […] readers about the German–Romanian relationship in the turbulent postsocialist years. The richness of detail and their careful contextualization helps readers to form an accurate image of these relationships. […]Cercel argues that it was the treatment under communist rule that led Germans to acquire an exaggerated sense of victimhood, which after 1990 became the driving force of their ‘exodus’ from Romania. Deserted Saxon and Swabian villages in Southern Transylvania are proof of this, as is the acute nostalgia expressed in the media by many ethnic Romanian intellectuals. The latter is interpreted by Cercel, throughout the volume, using the theoretical framework of “self-orientalization.” With this concept Cercel aims to explain the intellectuals’ deep admiration for the Western model of modernization during the 19th and 20th centuries. This idolization then led, he maintains, to their rejecting any model that might have ultimately proven to be better suited to describe Romania’s society.” (Stelu Şerban, Südosteuropa)
”This is an original work which examines the political and cultural expression of a Romanian nostalgia for the German past and the former presence of Germans in Romania.“ (Margit Feischmidt, Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
”[Cristian] Cercel pune cu succes în lumină aspectele subiective care au stat la baza reprezentării unei comunități generice a germanilor din România care în perioada ultimilor 30 de ani – de altfel epicentrul cronologic al studiului de față – s-a aflat, în mare parte, relocată în Germania, altfel spus o comunitate cu o existență diasporică, beneficiară a unei alterității idealist – pozitivate și ca urmare a opțiunii de a se salva prin exil într-un stat de același neam. Aspectele socio-economice care au stat în spatele recuperării nostalgice și eminamente pozitive a germanului au fost condiționate de această relocalizare a germanilor din România în acest puternic stat central european asociat de români cu prosperitatea, progresul și implicit cu proiectul european. În această constelație de factori trebuie înțeles „filo-germanismul fără germani” al românilor. Cum bine arată autorul acestui studiu, dubla asociere/afinitate simbolică a germanilor locuind cândva în teritoriile actualului stat român modern cu „patria” (Heimat), respectiv, cu statele germane central europene, a fost o trăsătură a imaginii de sine încă din discursurile promovate de către membrii acestor grupuri chiar din veacurile anterioare. Această dublă afiliere le-a conferit, mai mereu, un capital de imagine în mediul românesc chiar și în situații mai contondente (ca perioada postbelică marcată de deportări pe criteriul etnic) lucru confirmat de faptul că diverși decidenți politici români nu au fost adepții unor discursuri denigratoare de lungă durată.” (Marian Zăloagă, Anuarul Institutului de Cercetări Socio-Umane „Gheorghe Şincai”)
About the author:
Cristian Cercel is currently a researcher with the Institute for Social Movements at Ruhr University Bochum. He has a BA in European Studies (University of Bucharest), an MA in Nationalism Studies (Central European University), and a PhD in Politics (Durham University). Before his current appointment, he held research positions and fellowships at several institutions, including New Europe College (Bucharest), the Centre for Contemporary German Culture at Swansea University, and the Centre for Advanced Study (Sofia). He has published in refereed academic journals such as Nationalities Papers, East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and History and Memory. He is also active as a translator from German and Italian into Romanian.
More information about Dr. Cercel is available at: