Accepted Paper:

has pdf download "Godparenthood capitalism": strong ties as anchor and shield in illegal economic practices   


Monica Vasile (Humboldt University/ IRITHESys)

Paper short abstract:

My paper will analyse godparenthood as a means to obtain social capital and as "complicit insurance" for the purpose of accessing, illegally and informally, forest resources in rural Romania.

Paper long abstract:

In postsocialist Romania one hears very often of corruption scandals. In these scandals, a fashionable word is "nepotism". The word nepotism has the same sense as in English, but it has also the connotation of favouring one kin in particular - "nepot" is understood to mean nephew. Thus, to be kin to somebody important opens doors to resources or to favourable court decisions. One way for expanding kin ties is godparenthood, a much respected religious rule for Romanians. Parallel to its religious significance, godparenthood is often associated with business activities. Most choose godparents on the basis of relative wealth; godparents are those with an important job and good connections. 'Good' godparents also have to be "affordable", because there is the expectation of the constant exchange of gifts, through occasions marked in the popular calendar.

I will show how ritual kin relations function as a means of illegal access to recently privatised forest resources and as a form of "backup insurance" in the case of accusations. This type of strong tie is used as an anchor, alongside other more weak ties, in order to establish oneself in a web of patron-client relationships that contributes to economic prosperity in times of the "rule of the jungle". A particularly interesting example is extended cases where the practice of godparenthood can be expanded so far as to comprise up to twenty-five pairs of godparents for one couple. In such cases, the ties become so weak that their ability to connect can lead to the deterioration of the presupposed clientelistic effect.

Panel W106
'Kinning' with the neighbours, ritualizing the kin: ritual bonding and negotiating resources