© Department of Anthropology, Durham University, 2004–10

ISSN 1742-2930



Beyond postsocialism?: Creativity, moral resistance and change in the corners of Eurasia


Guest Editors: David Henig and Gareth E. Hamilton

General Editor: Claudia Merli

Contents


General editor’s note

Claudia Merli, Durham University




Guest editorial:  Intimacies from the margins of Europe

David Henig, Durham University



Perceptions of decline: Crisis, shrinking and disappearance as narrative schemas to describe social and cultural change

Ina Dietzsch, Durham University


Keywords

Decline; crisis; shrinking; disappearance; Germany.

Abstract

Since the breakdown of the socialist system, Europe has been seized by a tremendous acceleration of social and cultural change that has questioned basic certainties of modern societies such as unlimited growth, lasting increase of social security, stable nation-states and systems of equality, just to mention some. This dramatic change is in general often perceived as decline or loss. In this article I present three narrative schemas, which grasp the experience of decline – crisis, shrinking and disappearance. These narratives are not only stories; they are always connected to action and therefore develop their own directive force. I have collected the material in Germany over years. My research has revealed these three main narrative schemas, which are part of modernity at large but developing their special persuasiveness under particular circumstances. That is why I will show their rhetorical use where they are applied, adjusted to special situations and purposes, and the wide-ranging vocabulary that is connected to them. At the same time, however, I aim to make clear that the usage of these narratives is not limited to these examples, but it can be related to more general sociological interpretations of contemporary processes.


Rediscovering our shared qualities in ever-changing situations: Why postsocialist anthropologists should (and do) study rhetoric

Gareth E. Hamilton, Durham University


Keywords

Postsocialism; rhetoric culture theory; Ostalgie; material culture, social change.

Abstract

With the aid of ethnographic examples from Saxony-Anhalt (eastern Germany), this article argues for a rhetoric culture approach to studies of postsocialism within anthropology.  Whereas studies of former state socialist societies within the wider academy have been prone to teleological narratives of Western triumphalism and high-level abstraction, anthropologists have provided ethnographic attention to individual experience as a vital counterpart in explaining how individual people react to the ensuing social and economic difficulties.  Recognising that developments in the former state socialist countries and the effects on their populations have roots not only in that area and political period, anthropologists have further suggested that our analyses take on an similarly longitudinal and geographically expansive range.  Through the examples of, first,  employing the once-derided Trabant automobile as a rhetorical tool for selling eastern current German products and, second, using inventive linguistic tropes and visual imagery to persuade fellow citizens to buy and renovate to derelict buildings, rhetoric culture theory is posited as the optimum means of so doing due to its focus on how all humans, using cultural items from multiple domains and periods as a persuasive force, continuously and creatively alter and modify culture.  In this light, and using a third example of a heated postsocialist-themed podium debate in Berlin on the moral appropriateness of the phrase ‘verlorene Generation’ (‘lost generation’),  it is argued that the particularly close attention to our informants permitted by rhetoric culture matches well the common humanistic sense of concern for others’ wellbeing anthropologists share with their informants, especially in ‘changing’ postsocialist societies.


The moralities of medicine and birth care in the Czech Republic: The case of the arrested mother

Ema Hrešanová, University of West Bohemia, Pilsen


Keywords

Morality; Czech Republic; birth care; postsocialism; market.

Abstract

In this article I deal with key moral principles and logics permeating the post-socialist birth care system in the Czech Republic. In particular I analyse a case of a woman who was arrested for leaving a maternity hospital with her healthy newborn several hours after the delivery. I identify two competing ‘regimes of morality’: one defending health care workers’s standpoints, and the other defending the rights and decisions of the arrested mother. My findings indicate that both of these regimes eclectically employ moral claims that are consistent with socialist as well as capitalist ideas of the market and money in birth care.


Creating migrant nurses: How recruitment firms create successful migrants for the global market

Heidi Bludau, Indiana University, Bloomington


Keywords

Migration; migration recruitment; healthcare; nurses; global market.

Abstract

As skilled, globally in-demand professionals, nurses are in a unique position to take part in the increased levels of global healthcare worker migration.   However, due to the lack of mobility in the past, Czech nurses do not readily conceive of working abroad nor do they have a large network linking them to jobs in foreign countries.  Therefore, recruitment firms have arisen as a primary source gateway for nurses and other healthcare workers to enter the global market.  These firms, in turn, hold knowledge regarding what an individual needs in order to be successful in the job market and use this knowledge to create ‘migrant products’ for consumption in the global healthcare industry.   In this article, I examine how migrants are created as recruitment firms mediate the work of imagination.  Primarily, this paper will describe the training activities that create successful job candidates for work abroad.  Migrants must work not only to imagine themselves as part of a global community but also to position themselves as real members of the same.  At the same time, recruitment firms mediate both processes by ensuring that their migrant candidates have appropriate levels of English language skills, medical skills, and the cultural capital necessary to negotiate a foreign healthcare environment.


Capital, family or community?: A case study from Harghita, Romania

Míriam Torrens,  Autonomous University of Barcelona


Keywords

post-socialism; ethnographic research; property; rural community; customary institutions.

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of the complex situation of rural areas in ‘post-socialist’ Europe. Far from an unilineal model of capitalist development – starting anew –  I have found a complex framework of attempts to restore a kind of traditional peasant society and economy, mixed with a rather slow or reluctant obeisance to both socialist and capitalist projects. Indeed, I confronted ‘peasants’ rather than agricultural capitalists or failed collectivists. They have shown, and still do, more interest – actually a whole ethos – for a property of land understood as a complete access to a field both for family labour and for family consumption. Together with this goes the right to give in inheritance the whole territory attached to the work of the family or to kinship. It is not land property for giving work to others, for extracting rents and for mortgaging and getting credits. The title of property is perceived as a family security (and responsibility) and not as an individual asset. As a consequence, it is not a surprise to find continuity – or a renewed tradition – in both the form and the social and economic expectations of property and work. Thus, instead of postsocialism or new capitalism, what we find in these communities is the prevailing picture of a traditional peasanthood with some ‘innovations’. Thus, the institution of the Közbirtoksság or the communal management of work, forests and pastures has an economic and social vitality which comes from a specific customary law, living beside the socialist or capitalist management of the same resources. On the other hand we must take into account the promotion of several peasants associations linked precisely to the risks of capitalist economies for family welfare. I conclude that the realities of postsocialist private property in rural areas offer a variety which challenges the expectations of both socialist and liberal economists. They have failed in taking into account the strength – and the reasons for this strength – of social institutions such as the family and the community, their customary law and the broad impact of communal and cooperative action.


Guest epilogue: Intimacies from the cutting edge

Gareth E. Hamilton, Durham University




BOOK REVIEWS


Stephen Gudeman. 2008. Economy’s tension: The dialectics of market and economy. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Reviewed by Daniel Sosna, University of West Bohemia, Pilsen                    



Stephen Gudeman. 2008. Economy’s tension: The dialectics of market and economy. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Reviewed by Daniel Sosna, University of West Bohemia, Pilsen



Paul Connerton. 2009. How modernity forgets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reviewed by Michele Fontefrancesco, Durham University



Maja Korac. 2009. Remaking home: Reconstructing life, place and identity in Rome and Amsterdam. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Reviewed by Emilio G. Berrocal, Durham University



 
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Volume 17 - 2010  Number 1 (Special Edition)