duminică, 25 noiembrie 2007

Subjective Transylvania

I am rather late with this (i.e. I had the intention of tackling such a topic ever since we started Phoenix Transylvania), but in the end I decided that we're slowly going to start with it, even if I still do not have as much time as I'd like to allocate in this matter. So what is this about? Well, starting with this post, I propose that we (and this is an open invitation to all my colleagues on "Phoenix Transylvania") and especially--we hope-- our readers are (also) going to tackle the topic "Subjective Transylvania" from every possible angle (read: this in fact might start several various topics, each interesting in their own), having as center piece (and as inspiration) the very interesting study "Subjective Transylvania: A Case Study of Post Communist Nationalism" by Alina Mungiu Pippidi. The discussion thread will proceed in parallel to other topics here on PhoenixTrans and there is no intention of prioritizing it (to the expense of any other discussion threads); in other words, as always, we'll work under the assumption that nobody is in a hurry, but that everybody wants as good of a debate as possible...


Now, that being said: for starters-- & also in order to make my job easier :-) ( e.g. my own review of Mungiu Pippidi's book will in all likelihood not appear here before the end of the year...)-- I will take over for Phoenix Transylvania a very interesting post by Andy--author of the equally interesting blog "Csíkszereda musings"-- written almost a year ago, but still very actual and particularly suited for our purpose. Andy is neither Romanian nor Hungarian and yet my feeling is that in some respects he might actually understand more about Transylvania & co than many of us. In any case, the perspective of a foreigner with significant links to and much knowledge about Romania-Transylvania & the like (many posts on his blog stand proof to that assertion) is more than welcome (and likely to be one of the least subjective viewpoints... since we are talking about "subjective Transylvania"... ). I also hope that Andy himself will join in the (eventual) subsequent discussions (reason to keep them in English). The original post by Andy can be read here. Below I will paste only the part of that post dealing with Andy's specific comments on Alina Mungiu's book.




The book, which I assume was eventually published by OSI, is entitled "SUBJECTIVE TRANSYLVANIA: A CASE STUDY OF POST COMMUNIST NATIONALISM" by Alina Mungiu Pippidi PhD, who is a Romanian social psychologist. It is a throughly researched study into the disagreements between and perceptions of Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania, including reams of qualitative data. It concludes with some suggestions into what the future might hold and some suggested models for the future in creating a more harmonious situation. It's not clear when it was written, but it was obviously (from the context given) at some point during the Constantinescu government of 1996-2000.

I'll admit that my first impression was a negative one, since early on in the inroduction to the work Dr Pippidi refers to the 1990 ethnic clashes in Targu Mures/Marosvasarhely as a "violent outburst" while then going on to refer to an incident in Udvarhely "where the local community instigated by the town council brutally evacuated four Romanian nuns". Now I'm not familiar with this incident, and have no idea whether the adverb "brutally" is justified (I'm assuming it is), but it seems a bit biased to append it to whatever happened there and to merely refer to the mini-civil-war in which 8 people died and countless others were injured in Targu Mures as a "violent outburst". Given the context in which I'd received the link, I began to suspect that this would be yet another biased nationalistic tract of which there are so many out there (from both sides).

However, I gave the book a second chance, and am glad that I did. Since in the main the author (aside from the instance above and a later jarring reference to "the Hungarian problem") is broadly impartial and prepared to let her subjects speak for themselves. What really surprised me, I suspect, was how familiar all the quotes were - she interviews various groups of Tranyslvanians from different places, different ethnic backgrounds, different age groups, etc - and all of them repeat what I hear more or less every day about the differences and similarities between the two communities. I have cut and pasted some examples below:

Some comments on being a Transylvanian Hungarian
"When I was in Hungary I visited the fathers-in-law of a friend of mine. And they were surprised I speak such a good Hungarian. I never felt so insulted in my life."

"We, Transylvanians, sometimes feel like second rank Hungarians when compared to Hungarians from Hungary and second-rank Romanian citizens when compared to Romanians. We sometimes feel betrayed by both"

and, interestingly, from some of the Romanian subjects:
"It's more honorable to be from Transylvania than from any other part of Romania. When I am sometimes ashamed of being a Romanian I feel better when I think I am from Transylvania "


On the cultural differences: "Romanians need less than we do to feel satisfied. They watch TV and they feel happy, while we are concerned by one or by other and we can't get over it so easy. We Hungarians are so deadly serious"

And the following sentiments I have heard so many times that I have lost count:


This is the bosses business, politics that is; we ordinary people get along fine. (Hungarian workers, Cluj)
It weren’t for politics we wouldn’t even know who’s Romanian, who’s Hungarian, as it was in Ceausescu’s times, we were all alike then. (Romanian workers, Cluj)
You just can’t imagine how well we get along with people here [Romanian]. Politics doesn’t let us live peacefully. (Hungarian peasants, Miercurea Niraj)


I think my favourite bit would have to be this:

The most telling fact is, perhaps, that a social representation of nations living like a family within Romania is simply missing, so difficult it is to imagine an in-group including both Romanians and Hungarians. When asked ‘Were Romania a family, how would it look like’ most Hungarian groups told us they cannot conceive it as a family ‘or we would be the intruders' (intellectual, Miercurea Ciuc). Even Romanians had difficulties. ‘It would be like a mother-in-law with the daughter-in-law’ (classical image of conflict in the Romanian folk-stories) (peasants, Cluj). At the other extreme is this beautiful representation of a young Romanian student in Cluj:
The father should be a German, the Hungarian the cook and the Romanian should take care of the house. Now it's not working because the father is Romanian, not German.

As I say it is a fascinating piece of research, and well worth reading.

At the end Dr Pippidi concludes with the need to find a solution that satisfies the following (very little of which I can find any reason to disagree with):

1. to secure the right of the Hungarian minority to a shared public sphere of its own, that meaning 'a communal domain that is constructed not only as an arena of cooperation for the purpose of securing one's interests but also as a space where one's communal identity finds expression' (Tamir: 1993: 74). This space already exists to a large extent: all that is needed are supplementary legal guarantees.
2. to eliminate by a policy of affirmative action the disadvantages Hungarians still experience (proportion of Hungarian students compared to Romanians; proportion of Hungarian policemen, and so on) This was started in 1997, when the University of Cluj (babes-Bolyai) reserved seats for Hungarians applying for the Law School: this allowed them to be accepted with a much lower threshold than the Romanians.
3. Creating incentives for the Hungarian elite to choose moderate instead of radical policies
4. The same for the Romanian Transylvanian elite
5. Eliminating unnecessary competition between the two national groups as groups wherever this can be avoided
6. Preventing a deepening of the division between the two national groups and keeping a decent level of communication and interactivity between them in order to create at least occasionally a 'in-group' of both Romanians and Hungarians, instead of having them permanently exclude each other.
7. Eliminating the Hungarian theme from the Romanian internal political debate
8. Adjusting the political system in order to satisfy the listed requirements with reasonable costs and at a pace that would not endanger the stability of the political system (so often threatened both by ethno-regionalism and by the Romanian nationalist reaction).


Sadly, not much seems to have changed since the time 8(?) years ago when this was written - Hungarians are still very underrepresented in the police force, for example. (pt. 2)

And finally, in order to achieve the above, the author presents three models and critiques them. These models are
1. Hegemonic Control [the state controls/coerces/forces the minority group into submission]
2. Federalism [autonomous regions are created - the question remains whether these are formed on ethnic lines (cantonisation) or not (federalism)]
3. Consociationalism (yes, I had to look it up too) [By which power is somehow shared, either formally or informally. She opines that this was beginning when the paper was written, as the UDMR (Hungarian party) was at that time part of the ruling coalition. It has been ever since, to my knowledge]

She seems to lean towards the third, and I would be interested to hear how she feels now, given that to all intents and purposes this consociationalism has been going on for ten years now, and the problems seem to be exactly the same as when the paper was written. (I've written to her to ask).

marți, 20 noiembrie 2007

Women and Religious Communities III.

Catholic Church

Historical Catholicism obviously considered women as second-class creations; they were excluded from the priesthood, cult, teaching, and almost every part of the Church. They were allowed to be nuns but not to lead a sermon. In the middle-age society they had no right to own anything, they were practically a property of their husbands, and they were not allowed to start a divorce. Catholic Church nowadays is still rejecting divorce, the women`s ordination is not even a debate-issue, strongly disagree whit the idea of contraception or abortion. In the other side there is the cult of Mary, the Holy Mother (which doesn`t have any biblical basics). This woman-mother-picture deeply influences the everyday-life of catholic believers. The cult of self-sacrifice, suffering, mortification and being a victim does not help today`s women in their equality-fights, and makes any kind of suffering acceptable for `noble` causes. Self-discovery and being valuable as an ego is not popular in this way of thinking. The problem is with that picture that women are not allowed to determine this for this is totally determined by man-masters of divinity.

Historical Protestantism (The Lutheran, Calvinist-Reformed, Unitarian, Anglican Churches in Europe)

Historical Protestantism during the 20th century redefined the women`s place in it`s communities. Most of churches allow women in priesthood, some churches therefore present some kind of restriction: for example the Romanian Reformed Church has an attendance quota in seminary-application: the proportion of women priests should not be higher than 15%. None of other Romanian Protestant Churches practices this quota. They don`t have dogmas against divorce, abortion or contraception even though they don`t agree with them; they consider this problem an ethical issue instead of dogmatical one. The responsibility in God`s presence and free will concerns each of the people, no one, not even a priest is allowed to practice psychological or dogmatical pressure to change one`s decision, the priest is not able to close the way to God being just a person as everyone else, because in protestant anthropology everyone is equal no matter if it is a man or a woman, priest or simple believer, and anz single person can talk to God without a priest`s attendance. Protestant churches being historical initiators of the democratic idea including the institution of church councils in their practice are more reflective and flexible to cultural and social changes. The idea of `semper reformandi` allows and requires changing if it is suitable to the Bible, because the dogma is not saint as it is in catholic tradition. The protestant Bible-interpretation deeply reflects to social changes, because the interpretation itself is not saint, so it is changeable. Protestantism has in it`s main point of view the present circumstances, and reloads the Jewish idea of reinterpreting the sacred texts for present requirements. Therefore the women`s place in protestant communities is more comfortable for today`s women. Protestant theology made a very remarkable step in 20th century: the religious orders which have been a contemporary social habits or attitudes such as the forbidding of teaching for the women are interpreted such as historical-dependent ones, and can be changed.

In dogmatics this changes are harder to perform. There is a feminist theology, but it hasn`t gained a change of theological paradigm. “Christianity`s alliance with social and political power has nonetheless turned it at many points in history into martial faith. The loss of such opportunity within the context of modern secular polities has opened new possibilities of recovering and reactivating its pacific, feminine, and relational codes.” (Linda Woodhead: Feminism and the Sociology of Religion: From the Gender-blindness to Gendered Difference; in.: Fenn, Richard K. ed.: Sociology of Religion; Blackwell, Malden, 2003; p.79 ) The Christian God-picture is a dominating, fighting, martial, rigorous father which reflects mostly to the Old Testament. The feminist paradigm can change this picture to a more feminine one: a peaceful, informal, relational, loving, emotional, intimate god-picture, which is not strange in Christian theology considering Jesus` preaching and the way of treating women. God can be not just a father but a mother as well (in Old Testament there are also motherly pictures of God), not an almighty, powerful, distant creator, a potentate divine, instead, he-she can be one with whom can be hold an intimate conversation, and personal relationship.

luni, 19 noiembrie 2007

Women and Religious Communities II.

The main question

The main question is a hermeneutical one: does the religion we are talking about have a fixed dogma about the gender, the self-thinking, and the gender-determined place in society, or the religious thoughts can be remodeled by social requirements. How a particular religion or cult does relate to its own sacred texts? Are the scripts of texts sacred or the exegesis allows a historical context and point of view? The western culture developed a strong critical research in exegesis, and the social-religious orders are mostly interpreted in their historical contexts (for example the coverance of women`s hair in churches during the sermon, or the allowance of teaching to women). In the Islam for instance is totally forbidden to criticize the Quran or understand the historical patterns, because the Quran is sacred in it`s script, and for a Muslim is almost impossible to interpret the Quran in the western way. But it is true that Islam has not developed the idea of dogma, they doesn`t get dogmatics as it is interpreted is Christianity.

Christianity presents a very important example concerning the problem of explaining the sacred texts: protestant churches admit the critical exegesis, the catholic and orthodox churches are mostly based on church-tradition and traditional interpretation, which obviously does not allow any changes. Protestant churches involved the idea of women`s equality debated in 20th century.

The Bible and dogmatics

In the Old Testament`s genesis the woman (Eve, meaning mother) is made from the rib of the man (Adam, meaning man in general) meaning they are equal. During historical Judaism women are allowed to serve God in the Holy Place in Jerusalem (they are just a few, but looks like it was possible), they are allowed to inherit, if there`s no man descendant in the family, they are protected by the Jewish law and a divorce is allowed (well, for the request of the husband), and the wife has the right to obtain from her husband a divorce paper to prove she is not out of law.

Jesus in the New Testament is very liberal in this issue: he has women disciplines, which is almost impossible in that time. Paul also talks about women`s place, and restricts only the teaching, because women are not educated, but allows the prophecy, which means that a woman can be a pastor, but not a teacher. This changed in just a few ten years. (In the early Christian Church there were four types of pastors: prophets, texts-explicators (rabies), teachers for the new attendants, and deacons who served at the Holy Supper.)

In Church dogmatics and ethics there are some basic questions referring to the gender issue: does a Church ordinate women, does allow them to teach, does have a dogma about women`s place in family, does allow the divorce, and does a woman be able to ask for it, what does a Church think about the women`s right to abortion and contraception.

duminică, 18 noiembrie 2007

Women and Religious Communities I.

This is a long essay about the subject, so I cut it into parts. My English is not perfect for I strongly apologise.

aP. Prehistoric Societies

The martial-rider-nomad societies like the initial Indo-Aryan changed the matriarchal scheme of prehistoric societies. These martial-based societies were man-centered, the pantheon was formed mostly by man-gods led by man-leader, who was mostly a warrior-god full whit man-virtue. The agricultural societies in contradistinction presented the woman-principle in their genesis-myths, and this as mother-earth-goddess had a strong rule in pantheons compared to nomad societies. The Earth as mother and woman related to birth, giving birth, motherhood, death, which were woman-influenced questions of life. The Earth and fertility had mostly goddesses. In these societies women had important role in communities, they were allowed to be priests as well, the woman-principle having important part of agriculture, and so in their Religious Anthropology. In polytheistic religions the sky was a man and the earth was a woman, and their importance determined the men`s and women`s place in prehistoric societies. From their hieros gamos began the world, but during the war of gods they mostly lost their importance.

Even though the cosmogonies and creation-ranks declared the man and woman equal, the society implicitly or frankly put the women under men`s jurisdiction. Almost every language had (or has) different personal pronouns referring to men and women. Talking about god (gods) using the masculine form of the personal pronoun or the masculine form of the `god` word indirectly determined the gender of that god even though the sacred texts affirm the god`s genderlessness.

b. TThe Religions of the Book

In the Book Religions` (in order to appearance Judaism, Christianity and Islam) genesis God/Allah is above the gender as the creator of it, but almost every language (including the Hebrew, Greek and Arabic in which the sacred texts are written, but for example not the Hungarian where there`s no grammatical difference between genders) uses the masculine form of `god` word and masculine personal pronouns when talking about god. More over it is a fact of History of Religions that both Jahve and Allah absorbed in themselves some gods before monotheism: Jahve absorbed the Canaanite cult of El, who was a not too powerfull creator god before the Jewish conquest, and Allah himself was the ancient Arabic god of the Kaba Rock.

c. TThe Phenomenon

If we consider the religion as a social, political, economical, historical phenomenon, never once society have existed without some kind of religion. The Spiritual, the knowledge oh the Holy was always a necessity in historical societies and in one or other way is being represented in today`s different cultures as well. As an influencing factor, it is not possible to put away or to overstep the religion-based woman- and man-picture, or because it is still a living typos, or because it has a cultural and historical influence.

luni, 12 noiembrie 2007

Echipa Phoenix Transilvania in expansiune

Un scurt anunt pentru cititorii nostri: echipei PhoenixTrans i se adauga de astazi un nou membru, o persoana cu foarte mult potential si entuziasm in acelasi timp, avand exact profilul de care avem nevoie in echipa noastra. Despre Mezei Krisztina Nelli si cateva din ideile ei am avut ocazia sa amintim recent; suntem foarte bucurosi ca a acceptat invitatia de a se alatura grupului nostru. Un foarte bun venit lui Nelli (blog in limba romana, blog in limba maghiara)!



Din partea echipei Phoenix Transilvania,

Sebi Buhai

joi, 1 noiembrie 2007

Lumea se misca

Pe site-ul Centrului Regional PER pentru Europa Centrala, de Est si de Sud-Est se gaseste un rezumat extrem de interesant despre un seminar organizat intre 29 august si 1 septembrie 2007 impreuna cu Departamentul pentru Relaţii Interetnice din cadrul Guvernului României pe subiectul continutului materialului didactic auxiliar privind istoria minoritatilor nationale din Romania. Acest seminar a fost organizat pe baza Ordinului nr. 15291 din 18 iulie 2007 al Ministerului Educatiei "emis în scopul formării elevilor pentru o societate caracterizată prin diversitate culturală". Ideea din spatele ordinului este furnizarea unui material didactic complementar care sa serveasca profesorilor de istorie la predarea istoriei minoritatilor nationale din Romania in cadrul unor cursuri optionale pana la realizarea unor noi manuale de istorie care vor integra.

Rezultatul seminariului a fost determinarea formei si continutului acestui material auxiliar. Va fi o publicatie de 150 de pagini insotita de un DVD asamblate din contributiile fiecarei minoritati nationale cu un text ce va aborda urmatoarele subiecte :
  • originea şi aşezarea pe teritoriul actual al României
  • elemente identitare ale respectivei minorităţi naţionale
  • istoria respectivei minorităţi naţionale şi evoluţia relaţiilor cu celelalte comunităţi
  • percepţii reciproce în imaginarul colectiv
Textele vor trebui sa respecte mai multe criterii :
  • obiectivitatea si neutralitatea
  • nu se vor emite judecati de valoare in mod direct
  • vor avea o abordare din mai multe perspective
  • nu vor evita abordarea problemelor conflictuale sau sensibile
Ordinul ministrului prevede si formarea profesorilor de istorie. Imprimarea acestul material este prevazuta din primavara anului 2008, deci probabil va intra in curriculum-ului anului scolar 2008 - 2009.

Prima reactie, o initiativa excelenta si necesara, sentimentul ca lucrurile avanseaza, iar faptul ca vizeaza direct predarea istoriei in invatamantul preuniversitar este excelent. Downside-urile ar fi mai multe, incepand cu caracterul optional al predarii istoriei minoritatilor nationale, dar daca pe termen lung se prevede realizarea unor manuale - nu e clar daca e vorba despre rescrierea manualelor de istorie cum sunt ele astazi sau despre realizarea unor manuale "paralele" dedicate istoriei minoritatilor - c'est un moindre mal. Predarea istoriei ar putea - chiar ar trebui - fi adaptata pentru a face loc istoriei minoritatilor in programa obligatorie. Al doilea punct este condensarea tuturor minoritatilor in 150 de pagini, avand in vedere numarul de minoritati nationale recunoscute in Romania (maghiari, romi, germani, greci, turci, ucrainieni, sarbi etc.) probabil se va ajunge la 20 de pagini pe minoritate, insuficient. Dar sa spunem ca nu cantitatea conteaza ci calitatea, desi cred ca la o astfel de cantitate calitatea va fi sacrificata, se va ramane la lucruri de suprafata si generalitati care sa nu supere pe nimeni, de unde sa mai ai loc sa abordezi coerent si problemele sensibile. Intr-adevar mai exista si DVD-ul pe langa textul de 150 de pagini, dar va contine material mai degraba nestructurat si greu de digerat pentru un elev. Un ultim punct, in paranteza explicativa a "originii si asezarii pe teritoriul Romaniei" se precizeaza : "inclusiv cauzele plecării din ţara mamă, ce s-a câştigat şi ce s-a pierdut prin această plecare". Ar fi fost de ajuns "originea si asezarea", insistarea pe imigratie e o tampenie factuala in ceea ce priveste unele minoritati - cel putin cele mai mari, cum ar fi cea maghiara sau cea rroma - dar sa-i acordam creditul de tampenie coerenta cu istoriografia romana.

Pe termen lung este necesara rescrierea actualelor manuale de istorie pentru a incorpora elementul multicultural al Romaniei, dar mai este ceva vreme pana ajungem acolo. Pana atunci si in lipsa de altceva si acesta este un bun inceput. Poate e chiar inceputul bun intr-o strategie de a face pilula mai usor de digerat. Cum spuneam un paragraf mai devreme, e o initiativa excelenta - iar o parte din credit il are si semnatarul ordinului, (in)famous-ul ministru Adomnitei - a carei concretizare va fi foarte interesant de urmarit. O ideea buna nerealizata sau prost pusa in practica nu valoreaza nimic, deci let's hope for the best.