The Worse, the Better

On Safe Ground in 'The Most Polluted Town on Earth'

in Volume 21 (2012): Issue 1 (Mar 2012)
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What do people make of places? In the present article, I pursue this question from the perspective of a peculiar polysemy in the definition of places found among the inhabitants of the small Romanian industrial town of Copşa Mică. Copşa Mică suffers conditions so extreme that, analytically speaking, the town can be described as a zone - that is, as a limited area in which the conditions are such that normal limitations do not apply; thus, zone refers to a line that in a way effaces all lines, a boundary that negates all pronounced boundaries. What do we find instead? The local construction of safe ground reaches deeply into various cultural spheres, particularly into a moral order, by which the questions of where to stay and who is where are replaced to a certain extent by who is places - who is entitled to make them count as so different that it makes a difference? As a result, the local surroundings place themselves, so to speak, as contradictions brought to light in polysemous definitions such as: wherever it is safe, it is also exceptionally unsafe.

Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

(formerly: Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures)

in Volume 21 (2012): Issue 1 (Mar 2012)

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