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, Cumintea 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/.
A Comparative Review Essay
Alin Ciupală, Bătălia lor: Femeile din România în Primul Război Mondial (Their batt le: 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.
Continuity and Change, 1945–1989
This article questions the claim that in Romania, the post-1990 period was one of radically greater freedom in religious matters, as well as greater religiosity on the part of the population. Instead, it suggests that continuity be er encapsulates the development of religiosity—religious beliefs and their embodiment in specific practices— among Orthodox Christians in Romania in the twentieth century. It also makes visible important imbalances, gaps, and faulty assumptions about the importance of institutions in the daily religious practices and beliefs of most Orthodox populations in the historiography on Orthodoxy in Romania. Scholars have failed to see continuities and have embraced analytical frameworks that stress change, especially around the communist takeover period (1945–1949) and the fall of communism (1989–1990). Central to re-evaluating this trajectory are two aspects of Orthodoxy in Romania: (1) most believers live in the countryside; and (2) women have remained central to the development and maintenance of religious practices in ways that cannot be accounted for through any institutional analysis of the Orthodox Church, because of its both implicit and explicit misogyny.
Feminism and Nationalism in Romania, 1880-1918
This essay explores feminism's relations with nationalism and liberalism by examining specifically how feminists in late-nineteenth-century Romania understood citizenship and how they articulated views about women's empowerment starting from specific assumptions about individual rights and responsibilities in the community (as regulated by the state through citizenship). This perspective enables me to explain the eagerness of many feminist activists to work within the dominant paternalist/patriarchal context not as a paradox, but rather as an outgrowth of locally grounded, powerful contexts that worked together to afford specific choices to women struggling against patriarchy. In the case I discuss below feminists understood women's empowerment in terms of validating and increasing women's civic duties and responsibilities, rather than struggling for individual rights. These arguments built upon a well-established, albeit not clearly articulated, concept of republican citizenship, and reconstructed it most often in the language of nationalism (frequently ethno-nationalism), which had wide currency in Romania in the late nineteenth century.
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?
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.
Maria Bucur, Rayna Gavrilova, Wendy Goldman, Maureen Healy, Kate Lebow and Mark Pittaway
It is not the first time a journal is attempting a livelier format of intellectual exchange among academic specialists in the history of Russia/the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. But it is the first time that specialists working on questions of gender in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe are coming together to discuss a theme, theory and methodology issue together in this fashion, across a vast area and a very rich and differentiated scholarship. My interest in generating this dialogue is connected to my graduate training in the early 1990s, which came at a point when the social history of Eastern Europe was starting to gain new dimensions, linked to oral history and to the evanescent everyday life field that was gaining an important foothold at that time through the work of Alf Lüdtke and a group of social historians and historical sociologists working at University of Michigan and a few other institutions at that time. I was also becoming interested in gender as a category of historical analysis and found the Alltagsgeschichte approach embraced by this group of scholars particularly conducive to making gender topics visible and relevant in historical research and writing.
Women's and Gender History in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe (Part One)
Krassimira Daskalova, Maria Bucur, Ivana Pantelić, Biljana Dojčinović, Gabriela Dudeková, Sabina Žnidaršič Žagar, Nina Vodopivec, Şirin Tekeli and Oksana Kis
After publishing a two-part Forum about women’s and gender studies in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe (CESEE) in Aspasia (vols. 4 and 5), this and the next issue of Aspasia will host a Forum about the “state of the art” of women’s and gender history in the same region. Women’s history as we know it as an academic discipline appeared in Western countries in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Many practitioners in this period came from social history and/or were influenced by the overall progressive political climate of the 1960s and 1970s. Another important characteristic of the earlier period is that women’s history was one of the forerunners in women’s studies. But as important as this period was for the formation of our field, in many countries around the world women’s history is much older and was practiced by women and men in many different contexts and different ways, as the work of both Western—Gerda Lerner, Bonnie Smith, Natalie Zemon Davis, to name but a few, and East European historians has shown. Although we do not exclude the earlier developments in the field, the major aim of this Forum is to bring together contributions about the situation of women’s and gender history in CESEE during the past few decades.
Ayşe Durakbaşa, Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild, Ana Pajvančić-Cizelj, Evgenia Sifaki, Maria Repoussi, Emilia Salvanou, Tatyana Kotzeva, Tamara Zlobina, Maria Bucur, Anna Muller, Katarzyna Stańczak-Wiślicz, Lukas Schretter, Iza Desperak, Susan Zimmermann and Marina Soroka
Astrid M. Fellner, Tatyana Kmetova, Basia A. Nowak, Jill Massino, Melissa Feinberg, Magdalena Koch, Mária Pakucs Willcocks, Mihaela Petrescu, Libora Oates-Indruchová, Biljana Dojčinović-Nešić, Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, Albena Hranova, Maria Bucur, Oana Băluţă, Elena Shulman, Olga Todorova, Irina Novikova and Marianna G. Muravyeva
Marlen Bidwell-Steiner and Karin S. Wozonig, eds., A Canon of Our Own? Kanonkritik und Kanonbildung in den Gender Studies (A canon of our own? Canon criticism and canon building in gender studies)
Marina Blagojevic, ed., Mapiranje mizoginije u Srbiji: Diskurs I prakse (Mapping the misogyny in Serbia: Discourses and practises), vols. 1 and 2
Graz ̇yna Borkowska, Alienated Women: A Study on Polish Women’s Fiction, 1845–1918
Choi Chatterjee, Celebrating Women: Gender, Festival Culture, and Bolshevik Ideology, 1910–1939
Francisca de Haan, Krassimira Daskalova and Anna Loutfi, eds., A Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms. Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, 19th and 20th Centuries
Biljana Dojčinović-Nešić GendeRings: Gendered Readings in Serbian Women’s Writing
Constant a Ghit ulescu, În s ̧alvari s ̧i cu is ̧lic. Biserica ̆, sexualitate, ca ̆sa ̆torie s ̧i divort în T ara Româneasca ̆ a secolului al XVIII-lea (Wearing shalvars and ishlik. Church, sexuality, marriage and divorce in eighteenth-century Wallachia) Reviewed
Valentina Gla ̆jar and Domnica Ra ̆dulescu, eds., Vampirettes,Wretches and Amazons. Western Representations of East European Women
Hana Hašková, Alena Krˇížková, and Marcela Linková, eds., Mnohohlasem: vyjednávání ženských prostoru ̊ po roce 1989 (Polyphony: Negotiating women’s spaces after 1989)
Celia Hawkesworth, Voices in the Shadows: Women and Verbal Art in Serbia and Bosnia
Katherine R. Jolluck, Exile and Identity. Polish Women in the Soviet Union during World War II
Milena Kirova, Bibleyskata zhena. Mehanizmi na konstruirane, politiki na izobrazjavane v Staria zavet (Biblical femininity. Mechanisms of construction, policies of representation in the Old Testament)
Stefania Mihailescu, Emanciparea femeii romane. Studiu si antologie de Texte. Vol. II (1919–1948) (The emancipation of the Romanian woman. Study and anthology of texts.Vol. 2 [1919–1948])
Mihaela Miroiu, Nepret uitele femei (Priceless women)
Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina, Writing the Siege of Leningrad. Women’s Diaries, Memoirs and Documentary Prose
Maria Todorova, Balkan Family Structure and the European Pattern. Demographic Developments in Ottoman Bulgaria 258
Nancy Wingfield and Maria Bucur, eds., Gender and War in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe
Elizabeth A.Wood, Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet Russia