Archive for April, 2009
Call for Conference Panelists: ESHHC 2010 Panel
My colleague from Stockholm University, Helena Tinnerholm Ljungberg, and I are setting up a panel within The Sexuality Network of the European Social Science History titled (Re)-Producing the Nation, Histories of (Re)-Defining the Family? (Re)-Conceptualizations of Society’s Nuclear Structuring in a Global Age (a short description of the panel bellow). The panel will be part of the bigger European Social Science History Conference 2010 to take place in Ghent (13-16 April 2010).
Interested authors should submit their abstract (max. 300 words) accompanied by 5 keywords to both panel organizers. We have extended the call until the 22 April 2009:
O Cristian Norocel
Helena Tinnerholm Ljungberg
helena.tinnerholm-ljungberg(@)statsvet.su.se (remove parantheses).
(Re)-Producing the Nation, Histories of (Re)-Defining the Family? (Re)-Conceptualizations of Society’s Nuclear Structuring in a Global Age.
In an evermore interconnected world, marked by a full spectrum of interactions between traditions, languages, and ethnic identities, the family understood as the heteropatriarchal unit for societal structuring faces new challenges. In a world where individuality and flexibility are the norm, we witness the twin processes of widening up the traditional definition of the family, concomitantly with the inward-looking, conservative attempt to contain and restrict the allowed definitions of the concept.
Thus, queer and feminist activism and scholarship offer new perspectives and interpretations of the family concept, and call for inclusion of new family constellations in the mainstream debate. In the recent history, the right for same sex marriages, the right for assisted insemination for same sex couples, and the right for adoption by same sex families are just a few examples of painstakingly won rights in countries in the Western hemisphere.
These coexist, however, with appeals for moral reform and an increasing legal regulation of sexualities across the globe. Recently enforced constitutional amendments in various countries stipulate the family as exclusively heterosexual, and political actors across the political spectre (re)-invent traditionalist interpretations of the family concept. Conservative entities call for a defence of the traditional family and claim virtuous histories, refuting any non-heteronormative definitions of the family. Concomitantly, even more permissive legal regulation of sexualities restricts the (re)definitions of family to a monogamous relationship between two parts. From a historical perspective, the task of (re)producing the nation has relied strongly on a certain view on the family, but its actual (re)definition requires a (re)conceptualization of the two.
With this in mind, we welcome papers inquiring into the apparently monolithic definition of the family as the constitutive unit of society throughout history. We are particularly interested in exploring historically the (re)definitions of the family concept, in the questioning of the regulatory sexualities (be them hetero- or homosexual) and their impact on how society is perceived to be structured around the model of nuclear family. We encourage historically aware analyses of how gender, ethnicity, and obsessions of national preservation and reproduction are intersecting to create (new) mythologies of the family.
The Witch-hunt of Moldova’s Twitter revolution. How to search for hidden messages/ financers/ benefiters while forgetting the defense of basic human rights
Squeezed between the news about the rescue of the US captain from the Somali pirates and the unfolding events in Thailand, the situation in Moldova risks to soon fall off the international media attention. To the benefit of whom, I wonder?
What is even more worrisome is the wave of probably well intended analyses of the geo-political situation in the Eastern Europe that regard the convulsive manifestations in Chisinau simply as some sort of abstract power struggle between Western-financed and encouraged think tanks and political entrepreneurs and the power-clinging East-faithful. But this is, however, an overly simplistic dichotomous model, since Romania, the main culprit as it is portrayed by out-going president Voronin, is not the most important member country in NATO, nor does it have such a crucial leverage in the decision making process regarding the whole security architecture in Eastern Europe. Second, the Eastern sympathies of the out-going president Voronin have changed quite often, as it was noted across time. What has persisted though, was a desire to remain in power and ensure that the next elected president would not upset the internal power balance instated during Voronin’s time in office. I am afraid that, as they use to say, the devil lies in the details, and a rushed and disconnected analysis of the ongoing events in Moldova do not help the cause of the demonstrators against the electoral fraud from the 5th of April 2009.
It appears that the foreign analysts do not bother to read the local news, be them biased on the side of the manifestants or the centrally controlled state media. Otherwise how could one explain the complete silence regarding certain issues that cast a different light on the event? To start with the most obvious, Moldova Azi discusses the mysterious man (see video attached) that repeatedly appears in the midst of the anti-governmental demonstrations, planting the EU and the Romanian flags on both the Moldavian Presidential residence and the Moldavian Parliament; the same person was filmed among those opposing a manifestation of the one of the opposition parties, only to be later one of those disclosing that he was payed to demonstrate for (this time for) another opposition party. The same topic was discussed by Jurnal de Chisinau, a proof that Twitter meets YouTube when it is about genuine popular movements, and that we truly live in an age of ever more internet connectedness. An educated guess would be that this is a intoxication maneuver to create the false impression that governmental forces were taken by surprise (well, most comments on the internet focus on how cooperative and non-combative a treatment the mysterious man received from a police officer on the roof top).
So what actually happens in Moldova while foreign analysts involve in sophisticated discussions about balance of powers, emergence of new security architectures in Eastern Europe, radical re-drawing of alliances and imminent power struggles, or even more fashionably today, blaming it on the global economic downturn? On the one hand, people die. Or maybe, unfortunately, not as many people die as to attract media attention. Despite that, a young man died, allegedly as a result of the savage beatings of the police forces (the official report blames it on the tear-gas fumes; even so, no discussion on the responsibility of those making use of such lethal means to reprimand demonstrators is allowed to take place). On the other hand, journalists are harassed, this was even difficult for the foreign media to miss. CNN ran yesterday an article on this topic, but that was pretty much it. In the meantime, we are told that a vote recount would take place. However, one may wonder if counting defrauded votes would make a dramatic difference.
In this context, what about taking a step back and leaving aside the grand politics and grandiose theories of international politics, to start looking into how those people manifesting against the result of the elections are (miss-)treated? I think the lives of human beings should value more than a witty comment about new power balances and that a chance for fair democratic elections should be given also to those not as lucky to be in such world hot spots as Thailand or citizens of the US. Maybe it is time for the influential media figures in the West priding themselves with non-partisan stances to take a second and reflect on the fate of the Moldavian youth. I think they owe it to the thousands of young demonstrators in Chisinau and to their future. Or is their future to be gambled for a new security format to better account for the sensitivities of the today’s multi-polar world?
Chisinau revisited. How to suppress the revolution that no one talks about. A few á la carte options to dealing with the Evil.
Trying to keep up with the news flow and to make some sense of the events, both foreign media and the (still) free Moldavian news platforms, and some Romanian news outlets prove crucially helpful. However, one may have the impression that something is about to happen. Contradictory reports from Moldavian media news agencies, depending on their (dis-)likings, the fewer and fewer reports Romanian news channels and newspaper are able to provide first hand, and the almost eerie peace and composure of such international channels as BBC that run “impartial opinion pieces” paints an atmosphere of a widespread backlash against demonstrators at the hands of president Voronin’s faithfuls.
CNN finally noticed that the Moldavian government has embarked on a heavy handed campaign against the few journalists that still dare to oppose the official line of disinformation about the recent events from Chisinau. Romanian TV channel Antena 3 is less reverent when it comes to such touchy subjects and bluntly maintains that Moldavian journalist from the free press have been harassed, kidnapped, and searched for “compromising materials”. Of all, the most vocal are Jurnal de Chisinau, a local Moldavian news platform targeted systematically by the on-going governmental repression. Threatened to go underground, the journal’s director declares the journalists are ready to continue the struggle to inform Moldavians and the foreign fora (OSCE, Council of Europe, etc) about the “reinstatement of dictatorship in Moldova”.
But is it so? Is a full fledged repression about to take place? Are we about to witness a bloody backlash of those clinging to power in Chisinau? If one is to believe the discussions going on in Moldova, and on the blogosphere, then it seems that the government is about to bring in the heavy stuff into the Chisinau and forcefully “pacify” the capital. So the amateur film shows a whole column of military vehicles heading into Chisinau. Why are they driven into the city? To protect the defenseless citizens protesting against the recent electoral frauds? The intimidating presence of the military vehicles will reinstate what amongst the populace?
And all these heinous events get what kind of reaction from the foreign media? As mentioned above, CNN is cautiously telling stories of journalists desperately looking for a safe heaven from the physical brutality of the governmental forces. BBC does not bother with such trivial details. On contrary they seem to gave fallen into a trap, of what seems to be a classical attempt to media intoxication. In an effort to impartiality, we learn that a student, whose name we may know, participated in the demonstrations earlier this week. Then an NGO worker did the same. We get to know her name as well. And then strangely, from the other side, so to speak, we are told that actually there were never as many as 20,000 demonstrators in the center of Chisinau, and we are given the cheesiest description of how fair the elections were and how a good government they have had the chance to get so far. No name, just a very nice recitation of old praise. For someone still having memories of the “golden years” of Ceausescu’s dictatorship this piece brings back some very chilling memories. That is not a leadership working for the common citizens, but forcing them to exult at imaginary achievements (none in their own mind can claim that being acknowledged as the poorest country in Europe is something to be proud of, since they did not start from that position, but they got there grace to the leadership of the past years). Like from another world, DW tells us that president Voronin has accepted a vote recount, as if this would prove what? That president Voronin’s faithfuls have collected only 60 instead of previously announced 61 seats in the future Legislative? Should/ could anyone wonder about how genuine were these recounts? A loss of one seat does not make a sea of change in the present situation, and it appears too cynical a clarification to just make manifestants go home happily.
So then why to intimidate and forcefully silence the genuine discontent of the Moldavians? Why to present the Moldavian youth as some sort of internal and disobedient Other when all they want is that democracy and rule of law to be respected? Equally worrying is the strange silence and extreme reservation of external media to reporting the events, and yes, allowing dissenting voices to be heard and to critically look at the on-going events.
Reading/ Watching the news one gets the surreal impression that what is (still) happening in Moldova is a sort of a missed chance. What is for instance the difference between the wave of savage reprisals going on now on the streets of Chisinau, and what was going on in say December 1989 Bucharest? The amount of shooting? Or maybe, to start in most cynical a way, because we have no body count as yet for what is going on the streets of Chisinau? There are a lot of unsettling signs that if the first couple of days were euphoric, not everything appears to get some very strong shades of … blue.
Then, we learn who is to blame for the whole thing. It is not because of the possible election fixing and all sorts of uncertainties and suspicion around the ill-fated Sunday 5th. No, we are told that no matter the complaints, the blame is on Romanian shoulders. Now I can only wonder how could Romania (I am not sure if the whole country, only some parts of it, or some of its citizens; for the sake of the argument we accept this common label of the Evil: Romania) orchestrate and masterfully coordinate the street protests in Chisinau (some estimate that there were around 10,000 to 30,000 manifestants)? The same person that looked the Evil in the eye and dare to speak its name, out-going president Voronin, concluded that the Evil, i.e. Romania, has had/ still has/ may have (/ should have?) a dirty plan with Moldova.
Why? Well, because such an explanation suits his needs so good. If in some countries we have immigrants to be blamed for every single wrong-doing, well, in Moldova things are pretty different.The thing is that most Moldavians were forced by a disastrous country leadership to find their fortune elsewhere. So they may be, in turn, the evil Other some other place across Europe. Because of that there is not so much/ so many to blame before rising one’s eyes in the direction of the country’s leadership.
So then an external Evil comes in handy. Out with the Romanian ambassador for he has sinned (?!?), out with the Romanian journalists that dared to … do what journalists do, present the news. In this case they were accused they did a bit of rioting together/besides/ before and of course after doing their jobs. The supreme proof (if it was needed) was flagging the Romanian (and the EU) flags on the Moldova’s Presidential residence.
Taking one step back (from the Presidential residence that is) one could notice that Romanian flags were a rather conspicuous sight throughout the demonstrations. So, when most of the people manifesting against the electoral fraud were youth this means that Romania did a hell of a good job sending flags to Moldova (one often forgotten detail is that most traffic to Moldova from Romania was heavily restricted even before the tragic elections)? It does not mean that they, the young Moldavians, look at the example of the German reunification as a possibility to at least start hoping things will be better as a part of a EU country? So popular will does not count in this case? Why not?
The same out-going president Voronin, if it is to believe the same wrong-doing journalists, appears to have consciously allowed/ encouraged/ stimulated (?!?) the vandalizing of the Moldavian Parliament, and the Presidential residence, and that even the famous Romanian flag that sourced so much discussion and his fiery remarks was actually planted on the residence with the help of some policemen.
So what is left now? A revolution that wasn’t, a soon to turn bloody hunt for those to be held responsible for the “attempted attack to the state’s sovereignty”, a president that halfhearted admits to have played a rather dubious role in the whole chain of events, and a comfortably Exterior Evil Other (maybe that’s why out-going president Voronin spoke Russian, and not even Moldavian-than-is-so-easily-confused-with-Romanian?). Foreign media regards the mass demonstration in Chisinau with some sort of curiosity, expecting for the bloodier details, and not really bothering to delve into too deep an analysis of the causes, events, repercussions, implications.
However, trying to leave these aside, the questions that comes over and over again is: Aren’t the people the sovereign in a democracy? Shouldn’t they be listened to? How much blood/suffering/misery needs to be aired before things to be taken seriously?
How democratic is democracy, and whom is it to serve after all?
It seems that the recent parliamentary elections in Moldova will not pass unnoticed. At first, it was believed that the party of the incumbent president, Vladimir Voronin, polled around 50% of the votes in the elections that were considered “fair” by international observers.
The opposition parties that managed to pass the 6% electoral threshold for gaining seats in the Moldavian representative body, apparently waived far less than expected, with only some 13% for the center right Liberal Party and 12% for the Liberal Democratic Party.
However, such results were vividly contested from the release of the partial result. At the present, demonstrators have taken over the Moldavian Parliament. People contend the results accusing Vornin’s Communists of electoral fraud. Voronin has accused the demonstrators, in turn, of destabilization (BBC).
Oddly, the Moldavian State Television did not cover the incidents, opting for keeping with its scheduled transmissions, despite the gravity of the events. Romanian TV channels that can be received in Moldova as well, compensate this silence with live transmissions from the center of Chisinau, the Moldavian capital. It seems that the Moldavian youth does not accept the election results, and together with the opposition contest the official results. At the moment, it is not very clear what these street demonstrations could lead to, but there has been already registered a victim (a woman died poisoned with carbon monoxide from a fire started within the Moldavian Parliament).
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