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“Medusa's Smirk” (1975) by Mihaela Miroiu

Maria Bucur

Over the past half decade, philosopher and political scientist Mihaela Miroiu published a series of short autobiographical stories that were eventually collected in a book, Cu mintea mea de femeie [With my woman's mind] (Bucharest: Cartea românească, 2017), which was reviewed in Aspasia (vol. 12) in 2018. While the whole volume deserves an international audience, I have selected the story “Medusa's Smirk,” for translation because it sheds light on a topic little known, yet extremely important, in the lives of many women: sexual violence. Discussing sexual violence was a taboo topic under communism, and many women suppressed their traumatic memories of violence both seen and experienced. Yet accounts such as the one shared below have circulated orally and deserve further attention from scholars. For another relevant account, see http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/12/sex-in-the-time-of-communism/.

Open access

Women and War in the Balkans

A Comparative Review Essay

Maria Bucur

Alin Ciupală, Bătălia lor: Femeile din România în Primul Război Mondial (Their battle: Women in Romania during World War I), Iași: Polirom, 2017, 392 pp., 48 illustrations, RON 39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-9-73466-577-8.

Jelena Batinić, Women and Yugoslav Partisans: A History of World War II Resistance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, 287 pp., 11 illustrations, GBP 24.99 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-31611-862-7.

Open access

The Little Entente of Women as Transnational Ethno-Nationalist Community

Spotlight on Romania

Maria Bucur

Abstract

The founding of the Little Entente of Women (LEW) in 1923 provided new opportunities for feminists from member and aspiring countries to work together toward common goals for women's rights in those states. As they forged transnational bridges and built friendships across borders, the feminists of the LEW articulated a vision of progress deeply rooted in ethno-nationalism and racialized rhetoric. In this article I reflect primarily on the verbal rhetoric and visual symbols used by representatives of these countries in the first two gatherings of the network. Their empathy seems to have extended predominantly to the ethnic majorities represented in the group. Even as they spoke for women in general as a category, many understood each other to be speaking on behalf of specific ethnic and racial groups. The narrowness of this vision undercut the effectiveness of the work the LEW undertook and the goals it aspired to achieve.

Open access

It's Complicated

The History of Sexuality in Eastern Europe Flourishes

Maria Bucur

Kristen Ghodsee, Why Women Have Better Sex under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence, New York: Hachette, 2018, 356 pp, $17.99 (paperback), ISBN 9781645036364;

Kateřina Lišková, Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–1989, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018, 293 pp, $31.99 (paperback), ISBN 9781108341332;

Agnieszka Kościańska, Gender, Pleasure, and Violence: The Construction of Expert Knowledge of Sexuality in Poland, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2021, 268 pp, $42.00 (paperback), ISBN 9780253053091;

Agnieszka Kościańska, To See a Moose: The History of Polish Sex Education, New York: Berghahn, 2021, 354 pp, $145.00 (hardback), ISBN 9781800730601;

Anita Kurimay, Queer Budapest, 1871–1961, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020, 336 pp, $32.50 (paperback), ISBN 9780226705798.

Free access

Editorial

Francisca de Haan, Maria Bucur, and Krassimira Daskalova

This is the third volume of Aspasia, with a focus on the gender history of everyday life. The questions in which we were interested included: How have broad institutional frameworks – religious, social, economic, political, and cultural – related to the ways in which average women and men negotiated their gender identities, and, vice versa, how have (changes in) gender identities and relations influenced broader institutional frameworks? Our call for papers also asked more specific questions: How have assumptions of religious institutions about gender norms shaped the everyday religious practices and spirituality of laywomen and men? How have sexual norms impacted how women and men perform and negotiate their sexual identity in their daily lives? What changes did state socialism bring to women’s and men’s gender identities and daily lives, and how did that change over time?

Free access

Editorial

Francisca de Haan, Maria Bucur, and Krassimira Daskalova

This is the fourth volume of Aspasia, an international peer-reviewed yearbook, the aim of which is to provide a forum for the best scholarship in the field of interdisciplinary women’s and gender history of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. The articles published in Aspasia contribute to the expansion and enrichment of the field of women’s and gender history by making it more inclusive and by constructing bridges between the scholarship produced in and beyond the region. In addition they make it possible to challenge and deconstruct widespread notions about the ‘otherness’ and/ or ‘backwardness’ of the region by allowing us to expand our knowledge of a part of Europe that has a complex, though little known, gender and women’s history, and to situate these histories within broader contexts. A number of items included in this volume, not only articles but also book reviews and contributions to the Forum and News and Miscellanea, take up the challenges of deconstructing superficial notions about the region and of offering comparative perspectives.

Open access

Introduction

Maria Bucur, Katerina Dalakoura, Krassimira Daskalova, and Gabriela Dudeková Kováčová

Abstract

This Forum introduces an innovative topic: the short but rich story of the local network of Eastern European feminists, the Little Entente of Women (LEW), which so far has attracted little attention among historians working on the region. The four authors present their analysis through the prism of entangled history. The introduction contextualizes the creation and activities of the LEW by providing background information about the post-World War I period, the tensions and struggles between the revisionist and antirevisionist states, and the entanglements between feminist and national goals and between nationalism and internationalism among women's movements and feminisms at the time.

Open access

Book Reviews

Maria Bucur, Alexandra Ghit, Ayşe Durakbaşa, Ivana Pantelić, Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild, Elizabeth A. Wood, Anna Müller, Galina Goncharova, Zorana Antonijević, Katarzyna Sierakowska, Andrea Feldman, Maria Kokkinou, Alexandra Zavos, Marija M. Bulatović, Siobhán Hearne, and Rayna Gavrilova

Cristina A. Bejan, Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania: The Criterion Association, Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave, 2019, 323 pp., €74.89 (hardback), ISBN 978-3-030-20164-7.

Chiara Bonfiglioli, Women and Industry in the Balkans: The Rise and Fall of the Yugoslav Textile Sector, London: I. B. Tauris, 2020, 232 pp., £85 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-78533-598-3.

Aslı Davaz, Eşitsiz kız kardeşlik, uluslararası ve Ortadoğu kadın hareketleri, 1935 Kongresi ve Türk Kadın Birliği (Unequal sisterhood, international and Middle Eastern women's movements, 1935 Congress and the Turkish Women's Union), İstanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası, 2014, 892 pp., with an introduction by Yıldız Ecevit, pp. xxi–xxviii; preface by the author, pp. xxix–xlix, TL 42 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-605-332-296-2.

Biljana Dojčinović and Ana Kolarić, eds., Feministički časopisi u Srbiji: Teorija, aktivizam i umetničke prakse u 1990-im i 2000-im (Feminist periodicals in Serbia: Theory, activism, and artistic practice in the 1990s and 2000s), Belgrade: Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade, 2018, 370 pp., price not listed (paperback), ISBN: 978-86-6153-515-4.

Melanie Ilic, ed., The Palgrave Handbook of Women and Gender in Twentieth-Century Russia and the Soviet Union, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 572 pp., $239 (e-book) ISBN: 978-1-137-54904-4; ISBN: 978-1-137-54905-1.

Luciana M. Jinga, ed., The Other Half of Communism: Women's Outlook, in History of Communism in Europe, vol. 8, Bucharest: Zeta Books, 2018, 348 pp., USD 40 (paperback), ISBN: 978-606-697-070-9.

Teresa Kulawik and Zhanna Kravchenko, eds., Borderlands in European Gender Studies: Beyond the East-West Frontier, New York: Routledge, 2020, 264 pp., $140.00 (hardback), ISBN: 978-0-367-25896-2.

Jill Massino, Ambiguous Transitions: Gender, the State, and Everyday Life in Socialist and Postsocialist Romania, New York: Berghahn Books, 2019, 466 pp., USD 122 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-785-33598-3.

Gergana Mircheva, (A)normalnost i dostap do publichnostta: Socialno-institucionalni prostranstva na biomedicinskite discursi v Bulgaria (1878–1939) ([Ab]normality and access to publicity: Social-institutional spaces of biomedicine discourses in Bulgaria [1878–1939]), Sofia: St. Kliment Ohridski University Press, 2018, 487 pp., BGN 16 (paperback), ISBN: 978-954-07-4474-2.

Milutin A. Popović, Zatvorenice, album ženskog odeljenja Požarevačkog kaznenog zavoda sa statistikom (1898) (Prisoners, the album of the women's section of Požarevac penitentiary with statistics, 1898), edited by Svetlana Tomić, Belgrade: Laguna, 2017, 333 pp., RSD 894 (paperback), ISBN: 978-86-521-2798-6.

Irena Protassewicz, A Polish Woman's Experience in World War II: Conflict, Deportation and Exile, edited by Hubert Zawadzki, with Meg Knott, translated by Hubert Zawadzki, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, xxv pp. +257 pp., £73.38 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-3500-7992-2.

Zilka Spahić Šiljak, ed., Bosanski labirint: Kultura, rod i liderstvo (Bosnian labyrinth: Culture, gender, and leadership), Sarajevo and Zagreb: TPO Fondacija and Buybook, 2019, xii +213 pp., no price listed (paperback), ISBN: 978-9926-422-16-5.

Gonda Van Steen, Adoption, Memory and Cold War Greece: Kid pro quo?, University of Michigan Press, 2019, 350 pp., $85.00 (hardback), ISBN: 978-0-472-13158-7.

Dimitra Vassiliadou, Ston tropiko tis grafis: Oikogeneiakoi desmoi kai synaisthimata stin astiki Ellada (1850–1930) (The tropic of writing: Family ties and emotions in modern Greece [1850–1930]), Athens: Gutenberg, 2018, 291 pp., 16.00 € (paperback), ISBN: 978-960-01-1940-4.

Radina Vučetić, Coca-Cola Socialism: Americanization of Yugoslav Culture in the Sixties, English translation by John K. Cox, Budapest: Central European University Press, 2018, 334 pp., €58.00 (paperback), ISBN: 978-963-386-200-1.

Nancy M. Wingfield, The World of Prostitution in Late Imperial Austria, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, xvi +272 pp., $80 (hardback), ISBN: 978-0-19880-165-8.

Anastasia Lakhtikova, Angela Brintlinger, and Irina Glushchenko, eds., Seasoned Socialism: Gender and Food in Late Soviet Everyday Life, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019, xix +373 pp., $68.41(hardback), ISBN: 978-0-253-04095-4.