Accepted Paper:

'Down-to-earth men' in post-socialist transition: the Greek-Catholic ethic and the spirit of neoliberalism in a Transylvanian village  
Filippo Zerilli (University of Cagliari)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the relationships between an emerging Greek-Cuatholic ethic and the globalising culture of neoliberalism, and asks how both intersect with local identity politics in Mihalt, a Transylvanian village where the construction of a new church is reshaping the village boundaries

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on Max Weber famous work on the origins of capitalism as a source of inspiration, this paper explores the relationships between an emerging greek-catholic ethic and the globalising culture of neoliberalism, and asks how both intersect with local identity politics in a Transylvanian village.

Outlawed for over forty years under socialist rule, the Romanian Greek-Catholic (aka Uniate) Church regained legal recognition soon after December 1989. Unsurprisingly, the actual reorganisation of the greek-catholic parishes experienced strong opposition (notably from the Orthodox Church) and had different outcomes in each community, as this process differently intersects with global, national, regional, and local dynamics. This paper highlights the strategies through which, after ten years of tension and intense religious and political conflict for the recovery of the old Uniate church, a fraction of the greek-catholic community of Mihalt (Transylvania) succeeded in obtaining financial support from the national government in order to build a new church. The purpose of the paper is to show how the ongoing construction of the new church is literally and symbolically reshaping the village boundaries. This happens along two main lines of discourse and social practices across the time/space coordinates evoked in the twofold structure of the workshop: 1) Using the history of the greek-catholic tradition as a rhetoric device in order to build a new ethic (made of universalism, Europeanism, market economy-ism, property and human-rightism etc.) which is constructed as an alternative to the orthodox (Eastern) one; 2) Establishing a network of transnational connections through various institutions and travel initiatives (such as the Caritas organisation, the twinship with a Spanish town, practices of religious tourism in Italy etc.) whose primary aim is to replace Mihalt within Western Europe as much as to bring Western Europe(eans) in Mihalt (including the ethnographer, ironically an Italian coming from the "Vatican town" of Rome). The paper also shows how the greek-catholic fraction is making neoliberalist values locally meaningful, articulating them in terms of historically documented and standardized images of local identity such as strength, pride, individual interest, land-owning, defence of one's rights, etc. all together characterising those 'down-to-earth men' of Mihalt (as one informant puts it).

Panel W070
Transitions: movements in space and time