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.
Continuity and Change, 1945–1989
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/.
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.
A Comparative Review Essay
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.
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.
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?
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
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.