Throughout the Cold War, most people in the US saw the communist party-states of the Soviet bloc as all-powerful regimes imposing their will on their populations. The author, a child of the Cold War, began her fieldwork in Romania in the 1970s in this belief. The present essay describes how her experiences in Romania between 1973 and 1989 gradually forced her to see things differently, bringing her to realize that centralization was only one face of a system of rule pervaded by barely controlled anarchy and parasitism on the state. It was not simply that the regime had failed to change people's consciousness; rather, the system's operation was actively producing something quite different. These insights contributed to the author's developing a new model of the workings of socialism.
Like other area specialists, I was astonished when, in the spring of 1989, the Hungarians took down the barbed wire separating them from Austria and the Poles elected the first non-communist prime minister, without arousing repercussions from the Soviet Union. I followed with amazement the news of what was happening in East Germany in late summer and fall—the hoards of people camping out in embassies, the ever-larger demonstrations in Leipzig.
John Borneman, Joseph Masco and Katherine Verdery
Secrets and Truths: Ethnography in the Archive at Romania's Secret Police by Katherine Verdery
Reviews by John Borneman, Joseph Masco
Reply by Katherine Verdery
Mette Louise Berg, Hülya Demirdirek, Albert Doja, Leyla J. Keough, Orvar Löfgren, Kacper Pobłocki, Peter Skalník, Gavin Smith, Banu Nilgün Uygun, Katherine Verdery and Judith Whitehead
Biographical notes on contributors