- Socialist Heritage
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The Politics of Past and Place in Romania
Published by: Indiana University Press
268 Pages, 28 b&w illustrations, 4 maps, 1 table
- Published: December 2019
$30.00Add to Cart
- Published: December 2019
$60.00Add to Cart
- Published: December 2019
- Published: December 2019
Focusing on Romania from 1945 to 2016, Socialist Heritage explores the socialist state's attempt to create its own heritage, as well as the legacy of that project. Contrary to arguments that the socialist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe aimed to erase the pre-war history of the socialist cities, Emanuela Grama shows that the communist state in Romania sought to exploit the past for its own benefit. The book traces the transformation of a central district of Bucharest, the Old Town, from a socially and ethnically diverse place in the early 20th century, into an epitome of national history under socialism, and then, starting in the 2000s, into the historic center of a European capital. Under socialism, politicians and professionals used the district's historic buildings, especially the ruins of a medieval palace discovered in the 1950s, to emphasize the city's Romanian past and erase its ethnically diverse history. Since the collapse of socialism, the cultural and economic value of the Old Town has become highly contested. Bucharest's middle class has regarded the district as a site of tempting transgressions. Its poor residents have decried their semi-decrepit homes, while entrepreneurs and politicians have viewed it as a source of easy money. Such arguments point to recent negotiations about the meanings of class, political participation, and ethnic and economic belonging in today's Romania. Grama's rich historical and ethnographic research reveals the fundamentally dual nature of heritage: every search for an idealized past relies on strategies of differentiation that can lead to further marginalization and exclusion.
1. Tensed Urban Visions: Making Bucharest into a Socialist Capital
2. Matters of State: Archaeology, Materiality, and State-Making
3. Time-Travelling Houses and Histories Made Invisible
4. Lipstick and Lined Pockets: Strategic Devaluation and Postsocialist Wealth
5. Displacements: Property, Privatization, and Precarity in a Europeanizing City
Emanuela Grama is Associate Professor of Anthropology and History at Carnegie Mellon University.
"Socialist Heritage is a poignant account of much more than heritage. Emanuela Grama offers instead an ethnographic history of Romania and its recent political economic transformations, as well as continuities, by way of Bucharest's Old Town. Alternately forgotten and valorized, ruined and reconstructed, and commodified and set apart as a national treasure, Old Town stands as a complex hieroglyphic that, creatively excavated, makes the reader understand more clearly Romania's insertion into a neoliberal capitalist order while offering a novel perspective on social distinctions, political power, and placemaking under socialism."~John Collins, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The Graduate Center of City University of New York
This is a rich analysis of Romanian socialism and post-socialism through the lens of Bucharest's Old Town. Grama challenges readers to understand the intricate games that powerful elites played with the buildings, ruins, and infrastructure at different political moments in a district whose social and ethnic composition changed dramatically after the Second World War." ~Irina Livezeanu, Associate Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh
"In this beautifully presented historical ethnography, Bucharest's Old Town comes to life. In Grama's telling, the residents of Old Town include not just the people who have lived there—Romanians and non-Romanians, elites and non-elites—but also the very material things of the city district itself, from mailboxes to ruins and from ornate facades to planning files. Often to advance state visions and usually in the name of "heritage," these Old Town residents have been made and remade with dizzying frequency over the past seventy years. In these layered transformations, Grama deftly shows, lie lessons about heritage and history that are instructive far beyond the socialist and postsocialist world."~Doug Rogers, Professor of Anthropology, Yale University
"The volume presents a nuanced analysis of material heritage and its strategic use during the socialist period in Romania's capital city Bucharest and its continued legacy today. What is refreshing in this book, apart from the careful documentation and wealth of archival sources consulted, is the fact that the author brought together sources from fields that are not seemingly directly connected to heritage studies. Grama gracefully moves across different areas through with her use of secondary sources, bringing together urban planning, political studies, economic and social analyses. Grama also brings together key anthropological research studies on Romania, both national and international."~Cristina Clopot, International Journal of Heritage Studies
"The strengths of this book are the breadth of the data sources, which have enabled the author to uncover in detail how change in a particular historic urban landscape is shaped by broader issues of power and identity (in both socialist and post-socialist contexts). Socialist Heritage will be of interest to postgraduate students and academic researchers in disciplines such as history, anthropology, human geography, urban studies and sociology. For anybody wanting to understand Bucharest's Old Town there is no better source available. Indeed, over the course of 25 years I have frequently wandered around the Old Town and found myself asking "why is it like this?". Now, after reading Socialist Heritage, I know."~Duncan Light, Eurasian Geography and Economics
"Grama does a brilliant job bringing this story to our attention and explaining why we should care about it. Her book deserves to be widely read."~Survival
"An outstanding contribution in the field of anthropology of heritage."~Dana Domsodi, Sociologia
"Grama takes us through a journey of how the heritage discourse was first constructed and operationalized through archaeological, historiographic, and urban planning activities under state socialism, and then repurposed as well as contested after 1989, with results that show profound fissures in the ability to deploy "heritage" as a successful legitimating tool. . . . Overall, the book offers a vivid and provocative analysis of the politics of urban planning in Bucharest after World War II. The arc of the narrative highlights the huge gaps between policy makers and citizens who bear the brunt of these heritage entrepreneurs' ambitions for power and money."~Maria Bucur, ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
"The book is beautifully written, and readers from different disciplinary backgrounds interested in topics as diverse as socialism and postsocialism, the materiality of the state and city, architecture and its political power, including the making of urban heritage, will find enough to enrich their own reflections."~Antonela Capelle Pogacean, H-Urban
"Emanuela Grama's Socialist Heritage: The Politics of Past and Place in Romania is a compelling exploration of heritage making as state-making through the lens of the postwar and postcommunist transformations of Bucharest's Old Town. . . . A theoretically dense but engagingly written book, Socialist Heritage is a must-read not only for specialists of (post)socialist Romania and eastern Europe, but also for students and researchers of nationalism, urbanization and heritage making, history (re)writing, the role of experts under socialism, postcommunist efforts of Europeanization, and privatization as gentrification, or ruination as commodification."~Diana Georgescu, University College London, Slavic Review
"This book is well-grounded in empirical data, especially archival (for the socialist period) and ethnographic (for both socialist and especially postsocialist circumstances)—the interpretation of the sources and the extracts from the documents and interlocutors' statements vividly reveal discourses of politics, experts and residents related to the Old Town's (re)making, and not just regarding the area's heritage."~Srdjan Radovic, Comparative Southeast European Studies
- Ed A Hewett Book Prize