Accepted paper:

The state is in our living room: structural violence in communist Romania

Authors:

Alexandra Dorca-Jivan

Paper short abstract:

The mechanisms of subjugation during Ceausescu's dictatorship covered a large spectrum, ranging from physical violence to propaganda. This paper focuses on the later years of the regime as they are illustrated in sixty narratives recorded in 2005 and 2006 in Romania.

Paper long abstract:

As Arendt pointed out, totalitarian regimes are not aiming at changing the outside world, but the human nature itself; this is how the Conducator (the Leader) can assert its state of exception. The mechanisms of subjugation during Ceausescu's dictatorship covered a large spectrum, ranging from physical violence to propaganda. The 1980s have been marked in Romania by food shortages, disruptions of electricity and water, and rationing of gas. To make ends meet, both the state and the families had to make plans: the former with a "scientific feeding program", the latter with stratagems to prepare dinner. This paper focuses on the later years of Ceausescu's dictatorship as they are illustrated in sixty narratives recorded in 2005 and 2006. It examines the impact of subjugation and control on everyday life. The fear of secret police informants, the physical suffering and shortages of all kinds have led to the deterioration of ordinary relations. Therefore, identifying the forms of resistance and survival strategies that my interviewees have used in the past allows us to understand how they have been able to imagine a future. The totalitarian state has existed owing to fear and surveillance, but also to a carnivalesque theatralization - Maoist spectacles, Proletkult art and literature, sport heroes, young pioneers movement, surreal Communist Party meetings. The examination of the attributes and masks of this multi-faced government - socialist, communist, totalitarian, or carnivalesque - sheds some light upon its short and long-term effects on the population.

panel W029
Violence and resilience in South-Eastern Europe