Author:Monica Heintz (University of Paris Nanterre)
Paper short abstract:
I will show through ethnographic examples from Moldova and Romania how in contexts of rapid and radical change elements of permanence are invisible to the external and often also the internal observer or could be obscured on purpose, when an ideology of change is accompanying the transformations.
Paper long abstract:
Thirty years ago Johannes Fabian reproached anthropology its focus on societal permanences (traditions, social structures, values), which were leaving the Other out of time (1983). Anthropology has moved forward since and the focus on complex societies and on the globalisation process in general prompted its attention to change, mobility and the unsettledness and anxiety that accompany them. This is all the more so as in contexts of rapid and radical change elements of permanence are invisible to the external and often also the internal observer or could be obscured on purpose, when an ideology of change is accompanying the transformations. It is very much the spirit of the postsocialist period, where the debate between change and continuity with the socialist period has taken on open political forms. Despite that, my fieldwork in rural areas of the post-Soviet Republic of Moldova and of post-socialist Romania, conducted in a context of great out-migration and rapid social change, has revealed some social elements to which communities cling in order to continue to exist. In this paper, I will show through ethnographic examples from two villages: 1) how people refocus on customs and traditions and reinvent their centrality in order to ensure the continuity of their community; 2) how in periods of turmoil and change of values, they privilege community cohesion over moral judgments, truth or judgments of justice; 3) how they adopt indirect strategies to value permanence when at the level of the whole society change is considered the utmost value.
Permanence: anthropologies of what stays