Accepted Paper:

Inventing traditions for whom? Commodification of authenticity under EU heritage making policies in neoliberal Romania  


George Iordachescu (The University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

In many rural areas local administrations engaged lately in building an autochthonous discourse regarding the spiritual and material values of the villagers. Heritage, local traditions, nature and food are being rediscovered and assembled into tourism development strategies under neoliberal pressures.

Paper long abstract:

Both European and national rural development programs, especially those concerned with tourism development seem doomed to fail due to a scaled incoherence between all levels involved and due to the failing resources they try to commodify. Although a generalized rush for EU funds for heritage tourism in which local rural administration gets involved is highly visible, most of the eligible projects do not consider local problems as deprivation, unemployment and lack of production or selling facilities of local food for villagers. The governmental investments granted by EU are targeted exclusively in producing a traditionalistic discourse about community's rediscovered local identities while neoliberal processes such as forest grabbing, financiarization of land and standardized food production give access to new economic actors in rural areas. Dâmbovicioara, the village where all these processes meet, has been known for decades for its natural beauties, caves, gorges, and picturesque landscapes but the revenues from tourism were always insignificant. However, in the last few years the local administration struggles to rebrand the village by advertising their unique legends, their relevance in the most important historical events, their unaltered traditions and architecture and their pure arcadian building utopian representation of rural spaces. Although lots of money were spend on advertising local heritage, both material and immaterial, natural and cultural, or on big events such as festivals, the number of tourists did not increased as expected and the daily life of the locals seems worse than ever before.

Panel Rur001
Ethnography of rural spaces: between utopia and neoliberalism