EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W113)

Postsocialist Eastern Europe: social transformations and crises in personal biographies

Location John Hume Lecture Theatre 5
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Agnieszka Pasieka (University of Vienna) email
Marian Viorel Anastasoaie (University College, London) email
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Long Abstract

This year anniversary of 20 years since the end of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe was unanimously celebrated as the triumph of liberty, of the peoples against oppression, of capitalism over communism. Still, 1989 constituted a watershed in the lives of millions of Eastern Europeans, a world event that induced major changes and had complex consequences for people's biographies. Rather than taking the triumphant perspective of the victory of democracy and capitalism, neither the opposite vision of the advancement of oppressive neo-liberalism, this panel proposes to analyze the 1989 change as a source of crises in personal lives of Eastern Europeans. We propose to see these crises as complex moments when larger economic, political and historical processes intertwine with personal trajectories, opening or closing the horizon of possibilities of shaping one's life. We invite contributions that explore ethnographically post-socialist transformations focusing on critical moments in personal lives, such as: changes in professional trajectories, loss/(re)gain of social and political status, religious conversion, accountability of one's participation in or collaboration with the communist regimes, and other critical experiences people were confronted with in their everyday lives.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Renegotiations of changing production politics and 'crisis' through story telling in a Bulgarian factory

Author: Dimitra Kofti (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

Continuous transformations of production politics, after 1989, resulted in changing professional positions at workplaces and renegotiations of shifting workers' status. Based on fieldwork in a privatised factory in Sofia, this paper focuses on various ways in which narratives on successive 'crises' since the 1980's and until the recent 2008 'crisis', are represented both as 'normality' and as 'rupture' by workers, when they narrate their life stories. Furthermore, it will discuss how talking about personal life stories as well as often commenting on colleagues' life stories are important ways in which workers often make sense and renegotiate ongoing shifting power relationships in the plant via familiar idioms of 'communist', 'not communist, 'powerful' and 'powerless'. Through presenting ways in which workers narrate their life stories while also discuss their colleagues' biographies, this paper will attempt to unfold how through viewing the past, current capitalist production politics are understood at the shop-floor.

EURO-STIL: the story of a Moldovan transnational family

Author: Francesco Vietti (University of Milan-Bicocca)  email
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Long Abstract

This study analyses the impact of migration on the family roles in Moldova and the changing dynamics within transnational families. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the economic collapse of the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have left their country over the past decade to seek opportunities abroad. The mass migration has become the dominant socio-economic phenomenon of the country and has prompted the redefinition of family structure and ideology. The migration of a large number of women leads to a reorganization of the division of labour and the gender roles within the transnational family. These changes can influence communities as well as families. Taking a closer look at the transnational experience of a family in the rural context, the study explores the migrants' consumption desires and practices as reflective not only of commodified exchange but also of affection and sentiment.

The Gypsy bio(graphic) power: 'out of time' as a topoi in Romani life histories

Author: Yasar Abu Ghosh (Charles University, Prague)  email
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Long Abstract

When researching the universe of experience of Roma with post-socialist changes, I was seeking how their retrospective accounts allowed them to reframe in social terms what they have experienced as a problematic shift in their personal lives. For long time I believed that such a focus was unproductive since all I was coming across was an a-historical mythmaking in which time frames collapsed into an undistinguished continuity. For my paper I propose to revisit the parol acts with the original intention and approach them as “life stories” (F. Ginsburg). The narratively shaped fragments then arise as part of more comprehensive moral legends in which the topoi of “out of time” could be apprehended only in opposition to the dominant conceptions of time that shape the history of post-socialist changes as myths.

Transition as estrangement: alternative history of political change in Poland lived by a former Security Officer

Author: Anna Witeska-Młynarczyk (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)  email
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Long Abstract

The 1989 change in Poland involved restructuring of state institutions. The communist Security Apparatus was transformed into the State Protection Office run by a former editor of a Catholic weekly. The 'vetting' process was commenced and many communist functionaries were dismissed from the institution. The middle-rank officers recall this episode as an unexpected change evoking a sense of disorientation.

This paper expounds on a life story of one of the fired officers whose main job was planting bugs. His narrative about the transition constitutes an example of a counter-memory emergent in opposition to the legitimated by the state acts of symbolic exclusion of the communist functionaries from the new polity. The officer experienced the transition as a process of social alienation and a source of distress.

Narrating his life story to an ethnographer, he tried to maintain integrity of his self-image irritated by discrepant frameworks of communism and democracy.

Maping the structural nostalgia among the former elite members of soviet Lithuania: search for truth, trust and routines

Author: Vilius Ivanauskas (Vilnius University)  email
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Long Abstract

In Lithuania, the breakup of the soviet system brought different adaptational issues. By taking the case of former soviet officials, their adaptation process is very related with nostalgia's context.

Firsly, they actively participate interpreting past and claim for the historical revision, bringing their perspective of 'unlost generation'. Secondly, it must be observed the public participation of former officials, and their shared 'community', which defines common background, values and path to current structures, creates hierarchies betweeen 'old' and 'new' elites. Thirdly, they demand to promote 'rites' of soviet bureaucracy, sharing the attitudes on the institutional guidelines and 'know how' practices, which are represented as strategies of sucess (prioritisation of development plans, implementation, dealing with Brussels). All that reflect their reactions to the uncertainty and diversity of postsocialist period.

This perspective of 'nostalgia' is based on different sources, including interviews with former officials, their memoirs, media and archival materials.

Experiences of crisis among homeless people in Croatia

Author: Lynette Sikic-Micanovic (Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores the experiences of crisis among homeless people in Croatia. An analysis of the socio-economic and political context of the post-transition period will be initially discussed as homelessness is a relatively new phenomenon in Croatia that has been largely ignored by researchers and policy makers. Findings show that homeless people are the definite losers of the transition and that this marginalised population in crisis have not been adequately recognised or understood. This study adopts a holistic approach that takes a broad, gendered perspective viewing an individual's homelessness within larger processes in society. It specifically explores and traces the social transformations and crises in personal biographies obtained through ethnographic research involving in-depth interviews with people who sleep at homeless shelters throughout Croatia.

Transgender lives and the means of social control: the case of Poland

Author: Maria Debinska  email
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Long Abstract

Transgender people in Poland constitute a relatively new minority group. Before 1989 transsexualism and other kinds of gender identity dysphoria had been treated as a form of schizophrenia. The legislative changes introduced so far allow transsexual individuals to undergo sex reassignment surgery but at the same time subordinate them to stringent state and medical control. Many issues, such as parental rights or divorce, have not been solved yet. On the other hand, there has been recently a rise in social and political activity of transgender groups, who are struggling for some essential legislative changes. My paper examines how these activities relate to personal views and experiences of transgender individuals. What motivates them to undertake political actions and how these motivations relate to wider social processes of negotiation of gender relations in Poland. The analysis is based on the collection of transgender life stories gathered during the research process.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.