Articles

  • A Deconstruction Story: Property, Memory, and Temporality in a Transylvanian Village.” History and Anthropology (forthcoming).

ABSTRACT

The paper focuses on the reconstruction of a Baroque castle in Transylvania as an attempt to speed up its restitution to the former owners, and the various reactions this reconstruction triggered among the local people of the village where the castle is located. The castle used to belong to one of the Hungarian aristocratic lines in Transylvania but became state property under the post-1945 communist regime. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, I argue that the debates around the legal status and cultural value of the Bánffy castle in Bonţida reveal how various actors, ranging from the NGO experts, the lawyers supporting the heir, the state institutions, the local authorities, and the villagers engaged with one another in a struggle about meaning and value that was carried out through a clash of conflicting temporalities. All of these actors strategically carved up the past, seeking particular historical periods that would ground and justify their own (legal or symbolical) claims over the castle.
Keywords: nationalization, property, communism, post-communism, ethnicity, class conflict, Transylvania

  • “Restitution Reversal or ‘Re-nationalization’? An Analysis of Law, Property, and History Through the Case of the ‘Szekely Mikó’ High School in Transylvania.” The Journal of Romanian Studies, special issue on “Law and Society” (Forthcoming Fall 2020)

ABSTRACT

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 governmental 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; and 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.

ABSTRACT

In 1948, immediately after the communist Party came to power in Romania, state officials commissioned a group of art experts to radically transform the existing public and private art collections into a national system of museums. These professionals became the new regime’s arbiters of value: the ultimate authority in assessing the cultural and financial value of artwork, and thus deciding their fate and final location. Newly available archival evidence reveals the specific strategies that they employed, and the particular political needs of the state they were able to capitalize on in order to survive and even thrive under a regime that, in principle, should have disavowed them.

ABSTRACT

The paper analyzes the urban modernization of socialist Romania during the 1950s and 1960s with an eye to understanding the reconfiguration of professional and political alliances in the post-war socialist bloc. I argue that immediately after Stalin’s death in 1953, the government started to pursue a regime of reduced dependence on the USSR in those domains that the Party held to be the most important, such as urban planning.

A French version appeared as

“Plans impénétrables et expertise poreuse : construire un Bucarest socialiste, reconstruire son passé (1953-1968).” Études Balkaniques 2010/1 (n° 17): 147-165

ABSTRACT

The paper proposes an analysis of a linguistic construction of “self” as it was constructed in a series of petitions written by one of communist Romania’s “disenfranchised”, a former factory owner whose belongings were nationalized by the communist state. Employing a microhistorical perspective and insights from linguistic anthropology, I show how this writer attempted not only to ask for his rights to his lost possessions but also to “re-make” himself as a socially and morally legitimate individual, as a coherent “self”, through the very act of remembrance and narration.

  • “Networking Texts and Persons: Politics of Plagiarism in Postsocialist Romania.” Romanian Journal of Society and Politics 4, 2: 148-173, 2004.

ABSTRACT
The paper takes a famous case of plagiarism (the Beuran scandal), which provoked lots of noise and smoke on the Romanian public scene of 2003, as a window onto larger processes of reconfiguration of political, economic and symbolic capital among the postsocialist elites of Romania. I argue that a close examination of the ways in which “intellectual property” is understood, evaluated, embraced or rejected by various social actors could point to the significant transformations of political identities and concepts of personhood and accountability, which occur in contemporary Romania and, to a certain extent, across the whole former socialist bloc.