Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Sociology and Social Work, University of Bucharest

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology & History, University of Michigan
Memory, Proof and Persuasion: Re-creating Communal Ownership in Postsocialist Romania

This project explores the ongoing reconstitution of communal ownership over forests in postsocialist Romania, focusing on the role that documents and material artifacts play in mediating memory and knowledge and in producing and validating practices of ownership. Drawing on seventeen months of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research in the highland region of Vrancea (Eastern Romania), my dissertation will examine how particular communities negotiate the re-creation of a previously un-codified regime of ownership by using a wide range of graphic and material artifacts as alternative forms of legal, historical and cultural evidence. What memory practices enable Vrinceans to claim the re-enactment of property relations that were suspended for 50 years? How are such relations made where juridical notions of property fall silent? What kinds of materials are understood by Vrinceans as constituting "proof' of ownership claims and when do such artifacts succeed or fail as ways of arguing and modes of persuasion in extra-legal contexts? By focusing on the nexus of relays between persons and artifacts in the context of competing claims over communal forests, my dissertation will inquire beyond questions of legal recognition, into the everyday struggles that support the reality of ownership. It draws on and puts in dialogue several bodies of theory - the anthropology of property relations, studies of memory and material culture, the ethnography of documents, and the anthropology of the state - contributing thus to a richer understanding of postsocialist transformations and being of potential interest to scholars concerned with materiality and memory, state processes and property relations.