Accepted Paper:

The new 'best man' in Moldova: godparenthood reconceptualised  
Hulya Demirdirek (Retired)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on a Gagauz village in Moldova, this paper examines godparenthood as an institution through which post-socialist change can better be understood. Is godparenthood to be approached as a 'total social fact'? If so, how is this to be done and does it help us to rethink ritual kinship?

Paper long abstract:

As a precursor to a longer research project that will document the genealogy of godparenthood relations in a Gagauz village in Moldova over at least 30 years, my goal here is to approach godparenthood as an institution through which postsocialist change can better be understood. While Mintz and Wolf explored the conditions which led to the disappearance of "compadrazgo" in areas that experienced industrial capitalism, my focus is on the post-Soviet era. During the heyday of socialism it was common to break the chain of godparents (inherited from one's parents) in order to have a "best man" with a high status in state structures. Nowadays, the preference is moving towards well-off businessmen. This trend is not limited to Gagauz villagers, and is also commonly found among other ethnic groups in Moldova. The shift in the preferred "best man" is only one dimension of a change which has been accompanied by newer forms of interdomestic allegiance and tributary governance together with the related consumption behaviour etc. If godparenthood is a kind of reciprocal kinship system that touches economic and political dimensions of social life closely - and juridical aspects loosely - can it be approached as a "total social fact"? How is this to be done and does it help us to rethink ritual kinship?

Panel W036
Rethinking ritual kinship