“Like all countries, Romania simplifies and complicates itself through all sorts of images and symbols. Seen from the West, it is an almost exotic country, to consider only its position: somewhere, at the periphery of Europe…The history of Dracula integrated itself perfectly into this system of representations…The Carpathians offer Dracula a nicely adapted landscape. They are the margin of Europe: there, where Western civilization encounters an entirely different world. Dracula scored for Romania, but Ceausescu helped him with his extravagant version of communism. And after him, so many other histories shocked and revolted the Westerners: a bloody revolution still surrounded by mystery, the destructive expeditions of the miners to Bucharest, the intolerable situation of the children abandoned on the streets or sick with aids. All these, taken out of their context, became so many negative symbols of Romania. At the other extreme, there is the image of a country that is touristic, pastoral, and inviting: the beauty of nature, the picturesque of the places, the hospitality of the people, and the originality of art and folk music. Between these two extremes there are evidently many other images… Romanians differ among themselves, as they resemble other peoples. The regions of Romania also present a diverse picture. Naturally, taken all together, they provide a synthesis with specific features. Still, there is no Romania outside time…”– Lucian Boia (contemporary Romanian historian), Romania: A Country at the Frontier of Europe
Romania is a country by the Black Sea, which bridges Western Europe with the Balkans and the Middle East, with Russia and Ukraine. It is a place of increasing geopolitical interest, but also a place with a fascinating history where diverse cultures encountered and challenged each other throughout time. However, despite its still vibrant ethnic diversity and variegated traditions, Romania continues to imagine its national identity in a unitary way, around one language and one religion. The tension between the historical and cultural diversity of Romania and its monolithic view of national identity makes it an interesting case to study for a topic of intense debate today: the relationship between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, between claims to national sovereignty and the ethical demand to hospitality. The OCS program will explore the socio-cultural and political factors that contribute to nationalism and xenophobia in Romania, as well as in the larger area of Eastern and Central Europe, as well as the promise that social and cultural diversity in this part of the world bears for developing more cosmopolitan sensibilities in the citizens.
Bucharest, a city whose memories bring together a plethora of Western influences, as well as Ottoman, Russian, and Soviet traces, provides an ideal location for the program. We will use the complexity and the tensions of this city to explore some of the problems of nation building in Eastern and Central Europe, but also some of the promises that its diversity might bear for those who attempt to open national politics in a cosmopolitan direction. Students will learn to think about the complex ways in which society, culture, and politics interact with each other in the process of nation building. The 2018 program to Bucharest will also travel inside and outside Romania. Students will have the (mid-term) opportunity to spend a week in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, where they will learn about the history, nature, and problems of nationalism in the Balkans. The students will also travel to Cluj, a major academic city in the Western part of Romania, which has a significant Hungarian minority. The aim of the trip is to familiarize the students with some of the problems that the Hungarian minority faces in Romania, as well as with some of the dangers that come with both Romanian and Hungarian nationalism.