română/ bucurești/ cluj/ iași/ sibiu/

OVIDIU POP | The Occidentalism of the Romanian Middle-Class: On Locality in Neoliberalism

This is the second contribution to “The Glitter(y) and the Misery of the European Middle Classes” project and will materialise in Iaşi this week, ending with a lecture-performance Friday, 7th of July 2017, 5.30 p.m. at Iaşi. The event will be held in Romanian and will be livestreamed.

Tuesday, 4th of July and Wednesday, the 5th of July, 4 p.m. – 6p.m. you may join us for two reading sessions with Ovidiu POP.

“Neoliberalism does not only transform production relations, but also the sites of production and living. The term “site” refers to the material dimensions that give it form – nature and infrastructure – but it also has a symbolic dimension. On the symbolic side, the neoliberal apparatus operates in ways that uphold some discourses of belonging and exclusion. These serve a specific governmentality. We are no longer at its inception during the post-socialist neoliberalism, but at a moment when we are starting to understand it and develop resistance strategies.

The lecture and discussion that I propose broaches two of the ways locality is produced in neoliberalism. I will talk about national specification and the function of the Western Core for the Romanian middle-class. Inevitably, the discussion will reach the topic of migration. The migration to the West, through Romania’s accession to the EU, accelerated the articulation of an essentialist discourse about the differences between East and West in Europe. I will point out some of the elements of this discourse that is used by the Romanian speaking middle-class of the diaspora. I will connect this observations to the nationalist manifestations which could be noticed during the most recent street protests.

At a time when social classes are crystallizing, the national middle-class and the middle-class from the diaspora are joining hands. Both act from a position that is privileged and vulnerable at the same time. Both are producers of a specific knowledge that they seek to convert into political capital. There are talks regarding the creation of new political parties: new ways of doing national politics. Privileged in relation to the poorly paid workers of the European labour market, subordinated to the Western middle-class, the diasporic and “autochthonous” bourgeoisies want the power. The position from which they speak about “Romanianness” and “Europe”, about civilization and development, namely the locality that they produce, are strategies of legitimization. Their content is ambivalent: the reactionary discourse blends with liberating projects.

Using blog posts, on-line press articles, pieces of critical and decolonial theory etc., the lecture aims to shed light on some of the domination mechanisms produced and reproduced by the middle-class. Another aim is to show how the positioning of the middle-class conceals an imperialist tension embedded in the global system of production.

I propose all these with the intention of overcoming a deadlock. The deadlock I refer to is the epistemic dilemma of a social class suspended between the disintegration of socialism and the demands of neoliberalism. We too, the initiator of this discussion and the partakers, are caught in the parameters of this deadlock. Between the misery of the stigma of being Easterners and the ghostly splendour of the Western aspirations. The danger is the rising of a new classist discourse at the periphery of global capital.” (Ovidiu Pop, July 2017)

Ovidiu POP: His main field of interest is bilingual literature and critical/decolonial theory, to which he has dedicated most of his efforts since having completed his degree in the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna in 2009. His experience spans several years and involves different academic and artistic institutions in Cluj, Bucharest and Vienna. Ovidiu Pop regards himself as a transnational intellectual migrant, and divides his life between Romania and Austria. In both places he nurtures long-standing and ongoing relationships with artistic and political groups, each of which has shaped his convictions and prompted him to consider topics such as the colonial nature of power and aesthetics, poverty, housing rights, precarity, migration, etc. He places his work at the cross-borders, in the borderlands, quoting the Chicana writer Gloria E. Anzaldúa.

He is the co-founder of the Das Literarische Kollektiv in der Zweitsprache (the Literary Collective in the Second Language, a writers collective of subaltern languages writing in German. In recent years he held lectures at various artistic and academic places in Eastern Europe. Recently, he was awarded the Exilliteratur Prize in Vienna.

THE GLITTER(Y) AND THE MISERY OF THE EUROPEAN MIDDLE CLASSES is a project organised by Iasi between June and November 2017.

In 2017, the Romanian society seems to be deeply divided between the “enlightened and civilised” and “uneducated and not enough culturalized”, a division that is marking the deepening class division of transitional society, (for)ever waiting to achieve standards and merits of the “developed” societies. The somewhat Godot-ish position hampers the intensity and the agenda of productive social debate, blaming one or other societal group of being guilty for non-achievement. One can find this in the reflection of the divided situation in the cultural sphere, where it easily finds its logic and support.

Under different political, cultural and other discursive practices and influences, the middle class appears on the political and cultural scene of modern Europe in the role of an instigator, later a guardian of the order and progress and especially in the role of a protector and interpreter of related societal norms and values. But who is, or better to ask - what is the middle class of today? In a European country, in Europe in general, in a third-world country, or globally?

The tranzit. ro/ Iasi project “The Glitter(y) and Misery of the European Middle Classes” offers multiple perspectives and insights into the histories and actualities of middle classes and different related problematic. The political, cultural, economic and ideological capacities and characteristics of middle classes will be creatively focused, researched, analysed and challenged through different artistic and theoretical formats.

The planned inquiries, seminars, workshops and debates will revolve around the issues targeted by artists, activists and theoreticians in several European countries. The project’s organization and production will offer many opportunities for creative and emancipatory co-work and participation to different specialists and audiences. The activities by several international and Romanian authors have a prehistory of realization in both different and similar societal contexts and their realization in Iasi should bring the accumulated experience and co-generated new knowledge to some new levels.

Among participants: Noa Treister, Ovidiu Pop, Ana Vilenica, Andreea Cioară, Dan Acostioaei, h.arta, BOEM*&Migrating Kitchen, Bojana Piškur & Đorđe Balmazović, Katarzyna Bielińska-Kowalewska şi Zbigniew Marcin-Kowalewski, Ovidiu Gherasim-Proca şi Smaranda Ursuleanu.

Co-curators of the project are Nebojša Milikić, Livia Pancu and Florin Bobu.
Project Partner: Oberliht Association, Chişinău.

Illustration source.

Cultural project co-funded by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund.
This project does not necessarily represent the position of The Administration of the National Cultural Fund. AFCN is not responsible for the content of the project or how project results can be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the beneficiary of the funding.

This event will be streamed Live in the frame of the long term project tranzit. ro/ Iași: Public Space. aLIVE (2016-2018) realized with the financial support of the Iași City Hall, through the 2017 programme for non-reimbursable funding granted by the Iași City Hall budget.

The main partner of is Erste Foundation.