Accepted Paper:

Politics of identity: Saxon-ness without Saxons in a Transylvanian town  


Monica Stroe (National University of Political Studies and Public Administration Bucharest)

Paper short abstract:

The research on the town of Sibiu as the European Capital of Culture 2007 analyzes ethnicity as ‘ethnicization’: a process designed as ethno-political entrepreneurship envisaging an economic and symbolic dimension.

Paper long abstract:

The paper is an attempt to reveal the identity-building strategies used in the case of the Romanian city of Sibiu to support the title of European Capital of Culture awarded in 2007. The city was founded as a fortress founded by German settlers (Saxons) in the twelfth century and was widely known throughout medieval times by its German name, Hermannstadt. It preserved a multiethnic component until the last decades of the communist era, when the German population radically decreased down to 1.6% of the population at present.

I am applying Rogers Brubaker's framework of 'ethnicity without groups' to study how Saxon ethnicity is reduced to a set of practices (patrimonialization, staging and performance) in the quasi-absence of a Saxon population in the city. The focus is on how Saxon-ness is instrumentalized by ethno-political entrepreneurs and acquires the role of a cultural idiom translated into a discursive frame. The research on the organization of the European Capital of Culture reveals a narrative domination of the Saxon-ness when it comes to staging identity and building the city's brand. Communicating ethnicity becomes a political stake with both economic and symbolic dimensions. Why is Saxon-ness the successful city branding strategy considering the local, national and European context? To find the answer to this question, the research focuses on official discourse, patrimonial policies and cultural program.

Panel W006
Sustainable cultural diversities in Europe