Transylvanian Baroque: Liberalism and its Others in Rural Romania
Williamson, Hugh Francis
University of Cambridge
Department of Social Anthropology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Williamson, H. F. (2019). Transylvanian Baroque: Liberalism and its Others in Rural Romania (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.36290
This thesis is an exploration of liberalism in Romania and in anthropology. Liberalism is frequently represented in contemporary anthropology as a hegemonic technocratic practice, rationalist ideology and hypocritically exclusionary politics. I challenge this representation through an ethnography of a British-Romanian rural revitalisation and conservation programme in the Saxon villages region of southern Transylvania, Romania, and the vernacular liberalism of the cosmopolitan youth who have taken this project up. Douglas Holmes has asserted that in the European Union (EU) in the twenty-first century, communities and people are experimenting with new identity projects that fuse the liberal and illiberal in innovative ways. I trace how the rural revitalisation programme brought together romantic, “integralist” visions of the Saxon villages with the EU’s liberal technologies of governance to create a set of projects the value of which could be translated between diverse sets of actors, from British tourists through European bureaucrats and Transylvanian farmers. This provided local youth with the possibility of making a life in their home region in a context of significant economic decline and massive emigration. The seemingly disparate liberal and romantic elements, initially brought together in a transnational context, were “domesticated” by Transylvanian liberals as complementary resources that could be mobilised to combat entrenched problems of Romanian society and modernity, as liberals saw it, notably the failure of the state to provide key services and the stagnation of the public sphere. The state’s failures had led liberals to abandon it is a source of hope, turning instead to voluntary action, which made the dilemmas of how to mobilise engaged publics all the more crucial. Village liberals’ attempts to foster such publics frequently ended up reproducing their own marginality, however. Against conventional representations of liberalism, I argue that its technocratic pretensions can be an object of hope in a milieu where expertise is perceived to be absent as much as an institutional hegemony. I further conclude that the multiple ways in which the liberal and the romantic are combined challenges dominant images of liberal ideology and practice as purely abstract and formal.
Liberalism, Technocracy, Romania, Transylvania, Conservation, Romanticism, Public sphere, Dialogue, Taxation, Common Agricultural Policy, High Nature Value, Baroque holism, Transylvanian Saxons, Pastoralism, European Union, Post-Socialism, Community, Rural Development
Research supported by funding from the Newton Trust and Pigott Trust, via CHESS (Cambridge Home and European Scholarship Scheme).
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.36290
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