A visual narrative of the Romanian transition to capitalism
Anca Mihaela Pusca
This chapter sets out to explore the visual horizon of transitioning Romania and points to a series of important elements that have come to dominate it. One may easily consider the members of the 7 Days Group as visual anthropologists, expressing their findings through images as opposed to written or spoken narratives. The experience of the flaneur versus that of the spectator is separated by different visual techniques. Walter Benjamin used the concept of the flaneur to describe the streets of nineteenth-century Paris, the transformations in the industrial cityscape and the influence that these transformations had on everything from fashion to the way in which people related to their environment and each other. Industrial transformations are intrinsically linked to the urban as the ultimate expression of modernity. Susan BuckMorss argues that communism and capitalism were much more than two modern ideologies: they were two dreamworlds, or spectacles of modernity.
The post-communist transition in Romania has been a period rife with high hopes and expectations as well as strong disappointments and disillusions. The engagement with these disappointments or disillusions has mainly fallen along the lines of critical editorial comments by dissidents and intellectuals or academic engagements that connect it to different forms of social and political apathy. What seems to be lacking however, is a more head-on engagement with disillusionment as a self-contained process that is not just a side-effect of political corruption or economic failures but rather an intrinsic part of any transition. This book provides the basis for a theory of disillusionment in instances of transition. It also elaborates on how such a theory could be applied to a specific case-study, in this instance, the Romanian transition from communism to capitalism. By defining disillusionment as the loss of particularly strong collective illusions, the book identifies what those illusions were in the context of the Romanian 1989 Revolution. It also seeks to understand the extent to which disillusionment is intrinsic to social change, and more importantly, determine whether it plays an essential role in shaping both the direction and the form of change. The book further inevitably places itself at the intersection of a number of different academic literatures: from regional and comparative studies, political science and "transitology" studies, to sociology, psychology and cultural studies.
This chapter seeks to answer the question of how transitions came to be understood as generally positive times. It explores different understandings of the concept of shock, arguing that perhaps the transition from a negative to a positive connotation of shock might provide the answer. The concept of shock has perhaps become most popular in the contemporary Central and Eastern European context through what was known as shock therapy. If the normalization process implies a particular kind of adjustment to shock, Carl Cassegard discusses a slightly different response to the shock of modernity through what he calls the process of naturalization. Faced with a brand new economic and political environment and a constantly changing self, Central and Eastern European societies entered into a different kind of shock, something that some sociologists described as a collective culture shock.
This book examines nation-building ideology in the soldered states of Vietnam and Germany. Official nation-building ideology is understood here as the government-led construction of national identity, memory and history in order to promote an 'imagined community'. This ideology aims to maintain legitimacy within territorial limits, those of the state, and defines the limits of national belonging accordingly. The German and Vietnamese experiences are similar in using regional integration not only to improve their international standing, but also their domestic legitimacy. Comparison of Vietnam and Germany shows that despite contextual disparities, common trends emerge in governments' handling of advantages and obstacles to nation-building. Both soldered states face the same challenge of post-unification state legitimation. Their governments also use both nationalist and regionalist narratives in pursuit of that goal, offering insights into the ideological construction of communities in the context of past, divergent development. In sum, the German and Vietnamese cases have been chosen for their shared experience of national division, communism and participation in regional integration projects, namely the European Union (EU) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These themes are examined through empirical examples of nation-building ideology - namely selected cityscapes, museums and textbooks - with an analytical focus on national icons, heroes and myths as nodal points of nation-building.
The anthropologists James Ferguson and Akhil Gupta identify two aspects of a phenomenon they call state spatialization: verticality and encompassment. Ferguson and Gupta destabilise the spatial assumptions underlying Westphalian notions of state sovereignty. The concept of popular sovereignty exists in Vietnam, expressed in terms of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Within the broad theoretical approach, this chapter examines the key concepts of regionalism, sovereignty, legitimacy, discourse and ideology, as well as the possible methodological pitfalls of 'conceptual travelling'. Any analysis of the articulation of sovereignty and legitimacy in contemporary nation-building should include the regionalist dimension. The chapter explores the way in which governments conceptualise supranational governance. It offers a critique of the multilevel governance framework derived from European integration studies, and proposes an alternative better suited to the relational flows which characterise regional and global exchanges.
Education was recognised and pursued as a key means of nation-building in nineteenth century German states, prompting one historian to comment that 'Germany became a land of schools'. This chapter focuses on contemporary depictions of national heroes, with reference to school textbooks. National heroes are understood as a product of nation-building, or the government-led construction of national identity, memory and history in order to promote an 'imagined community'. The chapter sets out to show how heroes function as the embodiment of national unity and pride. The veneration of Vietnamese heroes has a, spiritual dimension, which is closely linked to the worship of guardian spirits in village communal houses, or dình. The chapter concludes that Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) nation-building does indeed systematically disseminate nationalist ideology by perpetuating a patriotic discourse through symbolic and didactic information channels.
Paradoxically, as much as Africa’s current problems are often rooted in the past, the continent today finds itself squarely at the forefront of new security thinking. Although the international community historically has played a critical role in shaping the African security agenda, true security—and solutions—begins at home. The often misappropriated mantra of ‘African solutions for African problems’ has taken on real and significant meaning in recent years with the development and implementation of new national, sub-regional, and regional approaches to advancing peace and security. This chapter examines these approaches, past shortcomings of the modern African state and its limitations, and looks at ways the African Union, regional NGOs, and civil society are seeking to fashion a cooperative security culture for 21st century needs. Without doubt many obstacles and challenges still remain, but these efforts are already proving useful in recasting the continent’s security priorities and, moreover, in establishing a direction for future engagement by Africans and non-Africans alike.
This book explores the evolving African security paradigm in light of the multitude of diverse threats facing the continent and the international community today and in the decades ahead. It challenges current thinking and traditional security constructs as woefully inadequate to meet the real security concerns and needs of African governments in a globalized world. The continent has becoming increasingly integrated into an international security architecture, whereby Africans are just as vulnerable to threats emanating from outside the continent as they are from home-grown ones. Thus, Africa and what happens there, matters more than ever. Through an in-depth examination and analysis of the continent’s most pressing traditional and non-traditional security challenges—from failing states and identity and resource conflict to terrorism, health, and the environment—it provides a solid intellectual foundation, as well as practical examples of the complexities of the modern African security environment. Not only does it assess current progress at the local, regional, and international level in meeting these challenges, it also explores new strategies and tools for more effectively engaging Africans and the global community through the human security approach.
States are the only contemporary political organizations that enjoy a unique legal status under international law—sovereignty—and are deemed to possess an exclusive monopoly on the legitimate use of force within their borders. A central feature of the state is to provide for the delivery of public goods (such as security) to its citizenry, and states fail to function as states when they can no longer do this. While the concept of “state failure” or “failing states” is much debated, the consequences of such failure are all too real, especially in Africa. Endemic violence, ethnic and religious tensions, rampant human rights abuses, rising terrorism and crime, along with a lack of legitimacy and political inclusion, as well as an inability to exercise effective control over territory are hallmarks of failing states.
Africa is a security environment fraught with many dangers, but one too that presents great opportunities for addressing the most pressing global—and not just African—challenges. With more than its share of fragile, unstable states, impoverished societies, and endemic conflict, the continent was once seen almost exclusively as an incubator of instability and insecurity; a venue for addressing rising challenges and an exporter of global security threats. But this is no longer the case. Africa, like everywhere else in the world, is becoming increasingly integrated into a globalized security system, whereby Africans are just as vulnerable to threats emanating from outside the continent as they are from home-grown ones. Thus, Africa—and what happens there—matters more than ever. Simply ignoring it and hoping for the best through a policy of containment and isolation is not a viable option in today’s globalized and interdependent world.