2020 ED A HEWETT BOOK PRIZE
The Ed A Hewett Book Prize, established in 1994, is awarded annually by the Association for Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies for an outstanding monograph on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe, published in the previous year.
Winner: Emanuela Grama
Title: Socialist Heritage: The Politics of Past and Place in Romania (Indiana University Press)
“Grama shows us how cultural heritage can open a window onto political economy and, in doing so, gives us new ways to appreciate class formation, the state, and planning/markets. The study is among the first to fashion a comprehensive theory of socialist political economy as materiality, offering original insights and a deeper understanding of value and governance in socialist and postsocialist contexts. While an earlier generation of scholars focused on the importance of ideology and a later generation on the importance of institutions, Grama redefines what socialist political economy was and how it worked. By viewing political economy through a cultural lens, we observe materiality and value as the media through which socialist political economy gains much of its power and practice, and how it keeps getting rebuilt and remade.
Focusing on the “Old Town” in Bucharest, the study glides across time periods investigating how distinctive aspects of national cultural heritage were exploited and celebrated in service to prevailing political regimes and elite interests – from the medieval ruins that suited the identity-shaping needs of “Post-War Romania” to the nationalizing politics of “Ceausescu’s Romania” to the eclectic turn-of-the-century architecture that suited the collective identity needs of “European Romania.” But the study provides even more by taking us inside the city center to meet the residents, and to show the disaffecting and dislocating social effects of urban policy over time. The contrast between fabricated identity and lived experience is delivered with precision and sensitivity by the author. The case study is built upon an impressive empirical base of archival research and ethnographic work, presented in a well-written and engaging narrative style.”