CfP: Populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe: rethinking the role of media, public discourse and their publics (25-28/08/15, 12th ESA – Prague, CZ); DL: 28/01/15.

Part of the 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association (25-28 August 2015, Prague, CZ), the RN32 Political Sociology organizes Session 4: The Populist Radical Right as Political Actor in Europe. The proposed panel on populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe is organized by Gabriella Szabó (CSS, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU) szabo.gabriella[at] and Ov Cristian Norocel (CEREN, University of Helsinki, FI) cristian.norocel[at], and is envisaged to fit within this framework.

Already a decade ago it was aptly noted that the study of populist radical right in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) resembles the efforts of aiming at a target in motion. Since then, several researchers have explored the populist radical right political landscape in the region. Still, we believe that studies of populism and radical right are facing the dilemma of whether categories of Western-oriented research properly describe the populist and radical right politics in CEE countries. A case in point, anti-immigration and Islamophobia seem to be non-issues in the CEE contexts, whilst ethno-nationalism (such as in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania), fundamentalist Catholicism (like in Croatia, Poland) and the frustration over the loss of past glories of the country (Hungary) are often hard to synchronize with Western developments. All the more important, the study of populist radical right parties needs to take into account the increasing inequality and growing intolerance to difference (be it ethnic, religious, etc.) in the societies across the CEE. The much needed comparative analyses on European trends of populism and radical right radicalism should be supported by deeper theoretical, conceptual and empirical knowledge on the regional specificities in CEE countries. It is especially true for the ‘soft’ factors of radicalization such as the role of media and public discourse in the dynamics of populism and radical right. Therefore, we seek comprehensive assessments of mainstream media response to the populism and radical right radicalism.

The panel aims to examine the extent to which public discourses are penetrated by populism and the level of visibility of the populist and radical right actors are in the public debates. We also address the question of the rather under-researched populist and radical right publics. The social media are believed to be intensively used by populist and radical actors to connect with each other and mobilize electoral support. If it is the case, we are interested in studying the impact and the patterns of this interactive way of populist and radical right communication in CEE countries. The international literature lacks reliable information on the rapidly growing media universe of populism and radical right radicalism with a powerful mix of social media, traditional formats of written press and radio and TV broadcast to balance the hostile mainstream media environment. In other words, we are interested to examine both in a comparative perspective and in case studies whether populist and radical media products have entered into the mainstream or they remain on the fringes of media sphere. We encourage contributions that investigate complex social manifestations, such as the examination of the subcultural environment in the CEE, the intersections of popular culture (skinhead music, rock festivals, and football hooliganism), mass gathering (marches, rallies, festivals) and identity construction (with particular attention to intersections of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality).

Please, send your abstract (no more than 250 words) to both organizers at szabo.gabriella[at] and cristian.norocel[at] by January 28 2015. The potential participants will be informed in due time whether their papers have been accepted and be directed to submit the abstracts through the conference official submission platform before February 1 2015.

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 Research No Comments

Brace Yourselves for the Storm: the 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Romania under the Sign of Radical Right Populism

There is little doubt that the mainstream political scene in Romania is presently undergoing some dramatic convulsions. The current affairs have come to be compared by foreign and native political analysts alike, matter-of-factly, with the equally tumultuous period that Romanian witnessed during the early 1990s. Indeed, besides the ideological polarization specific to the eve of such important political confrontation as the Parliamentary elections (scheduled for December 9th 2012), the tone and manner of political discourse in Romania has witnessed a return to a level that many have hoped it was a thing of the past. In this context, these elections appear to be taking place under the sign of radical right populist discourse, which seems to come also from established political entities with a different ideological profile, not only the now consecrated radical right populist parties – and in here I refer to the Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) – and some newcomers – the previously discussed Popular Party–Dan Diaconescu (PP–DD/ Partidul Popular–Dan Diaconescu).

In this context, several political events are illustrative of the said political climate. These are, in approximately chronological order: first, Dan Diaconescu’s surprising participation in the (by now failed) privatization process that the largest petrochemical companies in Romania (namely Oltchim) and in Central and Eastern Europe had undergone this September. No matter how perplexing this might sound, but Dan Diaconescu (PP–DD) has participated in the Oltchim privatization as a private person and declared he is motivated by his desire to return such a national asset back to its rightful owners: ‘the Romanian people‘. Even more perplexing, Diaconescu has later been declared the winner of the privatization bid and were to assume control over the Oltchim shortly thereof. Diaconescu played his role of being the ‘Saviour on a white horse’ (as labelled in newspapers; in Romanian, aici) very well. Despite accusations that he did not have the financial resources to perfect the privatization (accusations that are yet to be proven in court), he eventually presented no less than 1,8 million EUR in cash (several sacks allegedly filled with money had been transported in front of the Ministry of Economy in Bucharest, which was widely discussed in media; in Romanian, aici) to pay for the privatization. In this context, in decidedly populist manner, Diaconescu claimed that the sacks of money he brought to the Ministry of Economy were in fact destined ‘to pay the salaries of Oltchim workers’ (which have not received their salaried rights for several months). The governing coalition landed in a very ungrateful situation: mismanaging a significant privatization process, and coming out humiliated in such a populist manner by Diaconescu. The event signalled that the Romanian Social Democrats (PSD/ Partidul Social Democrat) are going to encounter a serious competitor in the PP–DD in their appeal for the support of Romanian working class. The few traditionally social-democratic policies implemented since the cabinet Ponta assumed office earlier this year are apparently going to be counteracted by a reputable adversary, which is versed in using the populist rhetoric.

Second, the more recent announcement that George (Gigi) Becali – former leader of a minuscule radical right populist party, the New Generation Party–Christian Democrat (PNGCD/ Partidul Noua Generaţie–Creştin Democrat), and elected EMP on the PRM list – will be joining the ranks of the National Liberal Party (PNL/ Partidul Naţional Liberal). Becali was later confirmed as the PNL candidate for a deputy seat on the common list of the Social Liberal Union (USL/ Uniunea Social Liberală). The USL consisting of, as previously mentioned, the PM Victor Ponta’s  and their allies the Center Right Alliance, which reunites the  PNL and the Conservative Party (PC/ Partidul Conservator). The fact that Becali has joined the PNL and has immediately received an eligible place on behalf of the party on the USL list for the Lower Chamber (Camera Deputaților) has determined several commentators to wonder if this was the wisest political move the PNL could have done at present, just weeks from the Oltchim privatization in which it was heavily involved. Even more so, there are serious question marks on how compatible is the PNL’s self–declared subscription to liberalism with Becali’s blatantly xenophobic, homophobic and sexist misogynistic remarks (in Romanian, aici). Some others have seen in this just another case of a nouveau riche purchasing himself an eligible parliamentary seat on the lists of a respectable party, and wondered if the PNL would actually survive past this electoral cycle (in Romanian, aici).

Right of centre on the political spectrum, the conservative Democratic Liberal Party (PDL/ Partidul Democrat-Liberal) announced to have crafted a political alliance together with the Civic Force (FC/ Forța Civică), the pocket–party of former-PM Ungureanu, and a faction of the Christian-Democratic National Peasants’ Party (PNT–CD/ Partidul Naţional Ţărănesc–Creştin Democrat). The alliance is titled the Right (or Just) Romania Alliance (ARD/ Alianța România Dreaptă) (in Romanian, aici). Among the main figures of the new alliance, Adrian Papahagi, the Vice-president of the Christian–Democrat Foundation has succeed to draw the public outrage through a xenophobic, homophobic and sexist remark, which he posted on his Facebook profile. Expressing displeasure with the acting PM Ponta and his rather chaotic months of premiership (the plagiarism scandal, which is still pending a definitive decision, the forceful change of chiefs of institutions, and the failed attempt to depose the acting President Traian Basescu, to name just a few) Papahagi argued that: “After all, if we have reached that stage to have prime minister who is a plagiarist, and a putschist and Guevarist, why shouldn’t we soon have as President a Roma lesbian atheist.” It is highly troublesome how plagiarism, intrigue–making and ideological radicalism could easily lead, what according to Papahagi was the image of absolute Alterity – yet another Evil Other – manifest in Romanian politics: a Roma (thus not Romanian, but the most discriminated ethnic minority in Romania, thereby indicating the total reversal of the ‘normal’ hierarchy of values); lesbian (thus, not only less than man – read woman –  but also sexually deviant from the heteropatriachal norm); atheist (thus, not Romanian Christian Orthodox, deviating from the allegedly one and only true way of being Romanian, and a Romanian President at it). His statement was quickly sanctioned (both original quote and the reaction to it, in Romanian, aici).  Papahagi reacted swiftly by labelling his critics as “commissars”. The word reminds both of the feared Russian “commissars” of USSR, but also closer to our present days, of the epithet usually employed by the radical right populist leader Tudor (PRM) to describe one of his female adversaries (Zoe Petre) – perhaps unsurprisingly one of Papahagi’s critics is a woman (Alina Mungiu–Pippidi) (in Romanian, aici).

Finally, the PRM leader’s return to his previous anti-Semitic discourse, manifest this time through a reiterated denial of the Holocaust in Romania, and thereby lending support to a PSD member, incumbent Minister of Relations with the Parliament in the Ponta cabinet. Indeed, the PRM leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, did not fail to disappoint and delivered another anti-Semitic rant. Commenting on the issue of Holocaust in Romania, and the active participation of Romanian forces in the mass killing of Jews on Romanian soil, Tudor argued that no Romanians have ever been involved into the killings, rather they have been victims of the Holocaust themselves, together with the Jews and Romani (in Romanian, aici). Tudor defended in this context Dan Șova (PSD), now incumbent Minister of Relations with the Parliament in the Ponta cabinet. In March this year, Șova, then newly appointed PSD spokesperson, argued that “no Jew suffered on Romanian territory, thanks to marshal Antonescu”, causing widespread outrage – despite expressing regret that his statement has been misunderstood, Șova has refused to apologize (in English, here).

This leaves way to a lot of questions with regard to the coming Parliamentary elections: is the Romanian political mainstream taking the road of populist xenophobic extremism? Will there be any place for a debate about viable competing solutions for the country’s economic recovery between the left (i.e. the PSD, perhaps much watered down as a result of the USL electoral alliance) and the right (perhaps in this case it would be the PDL, and their ARD centre–right conservative alliance)? Is the Romanian political mainstream, in general, becoming permeated by radical right populism, with an increasing number of mainstream parties succumbing to xenophobia, homophobia, and submission to heteropatriarchism? Is it of any help to reflect how the main political forces in Romanian plan to address the serious democratic deficit the country is witnessing (Romania has one of the lowest percentage of women involved actively in mainstream politics from the whole EU)? Why would be of any importance if any woman active in Romanian politics, would be of Roma origin or from any other ethnic minority, or if she would be a lesbian, or a professed atheist?

Parliamentary Elections in Romania (1996-2008) (Click to enlarge) (Source: NSD-EED)

In an attempt to ease the understanding of the various abbreviations present within the present post, I attach herein a succinct presentation of the main political parties and their electoral results in the Romanian Parliamentary elections between 1996 and 2008.  For this purpose, I made use of the European Election Database (EED) that has been compiled by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD/ Norsk samfunnsvitenskapelig datatjeneste). I do not have any copyright claims on the attached graph, which has been generated on the NSD–EED website containing information about Romania.


The total number of seats increased from 332 in 2004 to 334 in 2008. Seats: 316 (elected) + 18 assigned to ethnic minorities other than the Hungarians = 334.
2000: PSD ran as PDSR as Social Democratic Pole Alliance with PSDR
2001: PDSR merged with PSDR into PSD.
1996: PDL ran as part of Social Democratic Union (USD)
2000: PDL ran as PD
2004: PDL as part of Justice and Truth Alliance (DA: PNL-PD)
2004: PNGCD ran as PNG
1996: PNL ran as part of Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR)
2004: PNL ran as part of Justice and Truth Alliance (DA: PNL-PD)

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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 Research No Comments

When ‘Joking’ Fails, Use ‘Satire’ – How to Make Sure Finland Is Kept Pure If Social Engineering Is No Longer An Acceptable Solution: Make Those Others Wear Patches

It appears that the Nazi ideology has consolidated its place at the main source of inspiration for the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) rank and file. Indeed, in October 2011 the PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen was suggesting ‘jokingly’ – as it was later on quickly dismissed – that the autonomous Åland/Ahvenanmaa islands (inherently symbolizing the Swedish–speaking Finnish community in Finland) are the perfect place where to ‘put’ all ‘homosexuals’, ‘lesbians’ and ‘Somalis’ to live side by side and see what kind of ‘model society’ takes shape from that (see my previous blog entry discussing the matter, here). It was then evidence the uncanny resemblance with the anti-Semitic Madagascar plan of the Nazis (a Wikipedia entry on the infamous Madagascar plan – in English, here; in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).

On 11 April 2012, this was further exploited by Helena Eronen, assistant to the PS MP James Hirvisaari. Helena Eronen published an article on the Uusi Suomi e-newspaper, titled ‘Ratkaisu poliisin ulkomaalaisratsioihin’ (‘The Solution to Police’s Raids Among Foreigners’, in an approximate English translation). Shortly after it was published, the article was removed from the e-news platform (yet, available in its entirety in Finnish, tässä). It is worth noting that the PS MP James Hirvisaari was elected in April 2011 into the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta/Riksdagen) on a strong anti–immigration platform, being one of the authors of the Nuiva Vaalimanifesti (on signatories, in Finnish, tässä). The same PM MP James Hirvissari has been also the subject of a trial for incitement to racial hatred because of his blog entry on the same Uusi Suomi, titled ‘Kikkarapäälle kuonoon’.

In her article, Helena Eronen identified a readily available solution to the Finnish Police’s dilemma on knowing a person’s ‘worth’ in the Finnish society: make them wear sleeve badges! According to her, it is useful to know, from the very first sight, ‘who is a Somali Muslim’ or ‘a beggar from Romania’. The symbols on badges were just as easily provided to the readers: a half-moon for the Muslims, a hammer and a sickle for Russians, a landmine for Cambodians (sic). Neither the Swedish–speaking Finns, nor and the LGBTQI–community members were forgotten – in the latter case it was aptly suggested a patch depicting ‘a rainbow’ (media comments on her article, in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här). Helena Eronen even envisaged a means to account for someone’s accommodation to Finnish customs: a Muslim foreigner’s half–moon could later be exchanged to a blue–white half–moon thereby enforcing integration (on her article, commented at length in English, here). Eventually, the ‘blue–white half–moon’ badge could be handed in, a sign of the person’s complete assimilation and secularization: the birth of a new Finn. In other words, there are degrees of Otherness, and degrees of sanction and reward for all Others. The similarity with the Nazi methodical classification of the undesired Others is, yet again, uncanny (a detailed article on the Nazi identification system using badges – in English, here; in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).

One may wonder why has it become so crucially important among the PS rank and file to be able to make a distinction between an apparently ‘true’ Finn (to keep with the PS’ own denomination) and a ‘Somali Muslim’ or ‘a beggar from Romania’? What is the purpose of such process of selection and differentiation? Why to distinguish between a Muslim with a ‘red half–moon’ and one with a ‘blue–white half–moon’ when Islam is squarely rejected by the PS as foreign to the Finnish national fiber? Having a closer look at the hierarchy suggested by Helena Eronen, another question that insinuates itself is why are Swedish–speaking Finns to be ‘marked’ – what is their shortcoming for not being deemed worthy to be part of the Finnish un–badged majority, and why would this justify them being bullied by the majority Finnish–speaking Finns ?

Even more so, applying what appears to be a rudimentary heteropatriarchal logic of structuring, if the LGBTQI–community members have to bear a rainbow, how should then the distinction be made between, for instance, ‘true’ Finnish women dutifully married with Finnish men and bearing Finnish offspring, and those also ‘true’ Finnish women, but who however fail do so? In the Nazi system of badge marking, the political opponents were also classified; with this in mind, it would have perhaps been instructive to know if Helena Eronen also considered a system to differentiate between the common voters and those ‘true’ citizens identifying themselves with the PS cause? And by ways of conclusion, why continuously ‘making jokes’, and writing ‘satire’ on a subject that appears to be such a sensitive point of discussion? Whom is to gain from a radicalization of the whole discussion and at which price?

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Thursday, April 12th, 2012 Research No Comments

CfP: From Welfare States to Welfare Chauvinism under the Sign of Economic Crisis: Nationalism and Exclusionary Politics vs. Communitarian and Cosmopolitan Positions in the Nordic Context @ ESA RN32 Interim Conference (University of Milan 30.11.12-01.12.12); DL: 15.04.12

We are pleased to announce a call for papers for the panel we organize for the Second Mid-Term Conference of the RN32 Political Sociology to be held at the University of Milan (Italy) (30.11.2012-01.12.2012).

From Welfare States to Welfare Chauvinism under the Sign of Economic Crisis:
Nationalism and Exclusionary Politics vs. Communitarian and Cosmopolitan Positions in the Nordic context

The ongoing economic crisis has had polarizing effects across the entire Europe. In the Nordic context, it was accompanied by the emergence of strong appeals for exclusionary politics, such as the bold emergence of radical right populist parties at the forefront of parliamentary politics across the region, and the sharpening of the debate about the future of the Nordic model of welfare state.

The Nordic welfare system, underpinned by comprehensive labor force participation, promotion of gender equality, egalitarian and far–reaching levels of redistribution and benefits, and comprehensive fiscal policy, has been confronted with the sweeping wave of neo–liberalism and economic globalization.

With this in mind, the panel encourages the submission of papers exploring the emerging political cleavage along the nationalist vs. cosmopolitan dimension. Particular emphasis is put on the intensification of dichotomies such as that between forms of particularist
nativism (i.e. narrow definitions of the modern Nordic societies as welfare chauvinistic projects) versus universalist cosmopolitanism (integrative and accommodating definition of the welfare state in the age of globalization).

Abstract (200 words maximum) must be sent within 15 April 2012 to both panel chairs (Susi Meret: meret[at] and Ov Cristian Norocel: cristian.norocel[at] ). The panel description with the accepted abstracts will be submitted by the panel chairs to the conference organizers (for details on the conference, see conference details bellow). The final answer will be communicated by 30 May 2012.

Keywords: exclusion/ inclusion, nativism/ cosmopolitanism, Nordic region, radical right populism, welfare state/ welfare chauvinism.

Panel chairs: Susi Meret (Aalborg University) & Ov Cristian Norocel (University of Helsinki/ Stockholm University)

ESA Research Network 32 – Political Sociology

The European Sociological Association’s Research Network on Political Sociology (RN32) is pleased to announce its second mid-term conference, to be held at the University of Milan (Italy), 30 November and 1 December, 2012:

Political Participation and Beyond
Multi-level dynamics of inclusion/exclusion in times of crisis

Political participation is a founding theme of political sociology. In broadest terms, it refers to all forms and activities through which individuals or collectives express opinions and also exert influence on decisions that are of common concern. While concerned with apathy, abstention and “exit”, political sociology has also described and categorized a broad and ever-changing repertoire of citizen (and non citizen) voice, i.e. activism and formal or informal involvement whether individual/ collective, manifest/ latent, institutionalized/ unconventional, direct/ mediated, online/ offline. In an age of globalization and multilevel (local, national, supranational, global) networking of collective decision-making processes, in which social and political boundaries are being reshaped and new dynamics of social and political inclusion and exclusion are emerging, this scope of political participation is potentially wider and rapidly changing. One may wonder if participation is heightened in times of crisis, which favour more exclusive forms of governance and tend to mobilise new forms of protest, or on the contrary generates anomie.

The aim of this conference is to explore the extended scope of political participation in relation to transnational government arrangements and processes. Within this broad theme, all crucial concepts of political sociology are embraced. These include: challenged legitimisation of democratic representative institutions; changing power relationships between citizens and the state; the making of a new political order across the interaction of macro- and micro-level actors; the battle for cultural, social, and institutional change involving networked individuals and organized groups at local, national and global levels.

A number of key contemporary political and social phenomena can therefore be analysed from a political participation perspective:

  • Globalizing forms of protest and new forms of political mobilization
  • Changing interactions between public opinion, political elites, mainstream media, and social media
  • The plebiscitary nature of leader-followers relationships as regards populist parties
  • Party primary elections and campaigning
  • New patterns of electoral turnout and volatility
  • Citizens’ deliberations and experiments in participatory democracy
  • The emergence of a new political cleavage along the nationalism vs. cosmopolitanism value dimensions
  • The ongoing conflict over norms of citizenship
  • Processes of agenda-setting and the role of migrants’ organizations in key policy areas
  • Political dimensions of immigrant integration and the politics of voting rights
  • Urban governance and urban conflicts

Proposals can relate to all levels of – local to global – mobilization and participation in the polity. Studies employing a European comparative perspective or EU-wide framework, that address the multi-level dimension of participation, or discuss more recent challenges to citizens’ participation and legitimacy in times of financial and economic crisis are particularly welcome.

Abstract submission: Both panel proposals and individual paper proposals are encouraged. For panel proposals please submit a short description of the theme of the panel and at least three individual paper abstracts.

Deadline: The deadline for panel and paper proposals is Friday  30 April 2012. Please submit abstracts of max 200 words to: rn32mtc2012[at]

The conference committee will notify applicants by 30 May 2012.

Conference venue and organization: The conference will be hosted by the Department of Social and Political Studies, University of Milan (Italy). The Department is located in the centre of Milan. Participants are asked to make their own travel arrangements and book accommodation. We will suggest a list of hotels. Information will be available at:

To encourage participation by a broad range of early career researchers and experienced academics, there is no registration fee. To register, please write to rn32mtc2012[at] with the following information: name, position, affiliation with postal address, country, email address and dietary preferences.

Further information: Contact  Mauro BARISIONE at  rn32mtc2012[at]

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Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 Research No Comments

Cyber-defenders of National Pride? On Romania’s bad reputation abroad, and the discrimination of Romanians and Romas alike

Without doubt, Romania and Romanians seem to have a rather tarnished reputation in Europe. Especially the European medias do not spare any criticism when it comes to describing the country’s problematic development and its citizens’ misdemeanors. Throughout the years, British readers have been warned of the flood of Romanian immigrants that will take over the British isles once the country joined the EU. The Italians were informed that Romanians are but beggars that have rape and assault in their genes, and more recently Danish and Norwegian newspapers reached the same conclusion about the Romanians’ inherent violence from the brutal assassination of a Norwegian air hostess at the hands of a Romanian citizen, in an hotel room in central Copenhagen. Such rushed conclusions raise some serious questions about how much do the medias in Europe really know about Romania.

And to add insult to injury, no one seems to pay attention to the distinction between Romania and its citizens, generally called Romanians, and the Romani people (also known under the derogatory name of ‘Gypsies’). Indeed, some of the Romani people now present across Europe may come from Romania (there were 535,140 Romani registered in the 2002 census; link in Romanian). But they may be as well from Hungary (some 205,720, according to the 2001 census), Slovakia or any other Central and Eastern European country that has/had a significant Romani population and has an anti-Roma record (ranging from forced sterilizations and forced expulsions from local communities, to violent killings of Romani people). Such treatments are unfortunately widespread across the region.

The equation of Romanians with Romani people and the subsequent discrimination of both groups has become a common occurrence across “Old” Europe. Most recent  in France, where even the institutions supposed to combat discrimination and racism fail to act even when this takes place on the public television. Such an example is the performance of Jonathan Lambert on France 2 on April 17th. At the end of the “On n’est pas couchés” show where he was invited, he chose a rather peculiar way to express his gratitude in the sense of “performing” the so-called  “salut roumain”/”Romanian salute” (link in French). The gesture mocked Romanians- the hand trusted forward with the open palm typical for begging. The public imitated  Lambert’s gesture in a manner that made most believe it was not a spontaneous move, but a rather well rehearsed act.

However, besides official complaints issued by the various Romanian embassies there is a new trend of what I call cyber-nationalism. If official statements may be regarded as ineffective and easily overruled by the media “perpetrating” the anti-Romanian offenses, the cyber-defenders of Romanian dignity act against the very presence of the medias on the internet. The Romanian cyber-nationalists, labeled “hacktivists” by the very media they threaten with their acts, seem to have coagulated into a group suggestively called Romanian National Security [RNS]. Witness the globalization pressures and the localist-nationalist aspirations, the group’s name is in English while their messages are to most part written in Romanian.

RNS' comments on Daily Telegraph website

RNS' comments on Daily Telegraph website

Their anger and cyber skills became apparent to the whole world when a Daily Telegraph third-party website was defaced on April 14th 2010. The text, mainly in Romanian, read:

“We are tired of watching how some ‘scum’ like you mock our country. The way you portray us, which has nothing to do with the reality, and how you name-call us ‘Romanian Gypsies’ and airing such s*ite shows as TopGear. For having the guts to piss of a whole country, be aware that we won’t stop here!” and added in English “Guess what, gypsies aren’t Romanians, morons.”

The TopGear reference concerns the first episode of the series’ 14th season, which follows the TopGear team in its quest to locate and drive along one of most picturesque roads in Romania, the so-called “Transfăgărăşan”. The mentioned episode is a classical example of journalistic “faux pas” being filled with unflattering remarks about the country and its people. On top of all there is the careless editing of the episode that contains a discussion apparently taking place somewhere in Romania. The dialogue is in a Slavic language and it infuriated Romanian viewers, evidencing the journalists’ unawareness of the various sensitivities at work in that part of Europe.

RNS on Le Monde website

RNS on Le Monde website

Mass media in France did not escape RNS’ attention either. Sunday, April 18th- only shortly after the France 2 show, it was the turn of Le monde’s website to be defaced. The more elaborate text, still in Romanian, took issue with the equation of Romanians to Romani people and the undignified reaction of French media in general to the “Romanian salute” affair:

“This is not a resistance movement, nor a protest, nor a rebellion! It is the cry of the whole Romanian people calling their brothers, who have forgot that Roman blood flows through or veins too! The blood spilled on battlefields so that our people’s history can be written urges now for JUSTICE. Our national heroes will never die! The memory of those who paid with their live so that Romania exists on the world’s map will never be forgotten. We want to proudly remind our children and our grandchildren of them and to give them the honor they deserve. We’ve had enough of mockery! The Gypsies are not Romanians! The have not written our history! When you make reference to our compatriots do not use such phrases as ‘Romanian Gypsies’.” The message is concluded with the warning “We have respected your French, you will respect our ROMANIA! RNS  KEEPS GUARD for this to happen.”

According to an interview with one of the RNS members (link in Romanian), the 20-something  group members do not know one another, but they are decided to signal that Romanians’ tolerance has been abused for too long. Described as a 17-year old man whose parents are also nationalists and who know  and agree with his activities, the interviewee appears to live a “normal life” “preparing for his exams, grill parties at the weekend and dates with his girlfriend”.  In a sign of civility the young man mentions that when defacing the websites RNS abstained from collecting sensitive personal information from the websites, or infecting the computers of both editors and readers accessing the web-pages. In other words they signaled of not being mere “hackers” but people animated by a national ideal and passionate about computers. Even more intriguing is his attempt to absolve RNS from any accusation of racism, apologizing to “all Romani people that live a honest life and are know the value of honest work, and respect”. So the “Gypsies” that the texts made reference to are, by  contrast those who do not live a honest life, begging and pickpocketing in the streets of European cities, though it is rather difficult to assess if the Romani people in question had any choice in living such a life. The two messages and the interview are saturated with a rather romantic take on nationalism, remembering proud and upright masculinities, war heroes and civilized citizens alike, as opposed to the “Gypsies” that the authors want to distance from themselves and the entire Romanian nation.

Unfortunately, what the cyber-nationalists from the Romanian National Security group managed to do, was not only to draw attention on the stereotypical presentation of Romanians as beggars in European press, but also to point at the naturalized discrimination of Romani people that occurs both in Romania, but also across the EU. In their attempt to restore the dignity of Romanians they seem to have silenced the extreme discrimination and stereotyping experienced by the Romani people. Indeed, if Romania’s reputation is defended by dedicated hackers, who is willing to demand action for the integration of Romani people in the European societies? How stringent is the need to distinguish between Romanians, as in citizens of Romania (regardless of their ethnic belonging, i.e. Romanians, Hungarians, Romani people, etc), and Romani people? Can Romani people born in Romania called themselves and be called Romanians? How will RNS’ actions will impact on the situation of the Romani people?

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Sunday, April 25th, 2010 Miscellaneous No Comments

Obsessing about the Other in Finland: mandatory study of Swedish may turn you into a killer, welcoming refugees spells the end of Finnish nation

Being preoccupied with the Other appears as a multifaceted process in Finland, and it stretches to encompass attitudes against Swedish-speaking Finns and mandatory Swedish-language education in Finnish schools, to fears of national dilution with the apparent increase of asylum seekers and other refugees in the country, a consequence of the clandestine activities of the same Swedish-speakers. However, what they have in common is the danger they posit to the Finnish masculinity, or better said to the typology of Finnish conservative heteropatriachal masculinity heralded by the Finnish radical right populists- the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna).

A first example is the incident which was mainly discussed on the Finnish Broadcast company’s Swedish language web-pages (här). It is an opinion piece published by Kirkkonummen Sanomat (KS) authored by Voitto Mäkipää (in Finnish, tässä, p. 15). Kirkkonummen Sanomat is, as the name suggests, the local newspaper in Kirkkonummi/ Kyrkslätt, a commune some 30 km away from the Finnish capital. Mäkipää is a local non-affiliated commune councilor on educational matters, who works closely with PS. In his article, Mäkipää argued against the teaching of mandatory Swedish in Finnish schools, the so-called pakkoruotsi/tvångssvenska.  What is surprising, however, is the way Mäkipää claimed in his piece that based on his personal experience of being forced to study a “completely useless” language like pakkoruotsi he has come to understand the frustration of young men that eventually shoot innocent people around them. In this light, he recommended researching which language had to study those who engaged in violent shootings in Finland in the recent past. He then continued unabated that pakkoruotsi is “a relic of the past” and that the Swedish-speaking Finns are the fifth column, which clandestinely undermines the Finnish nation from within.

From a gender-informed perspective, Mäkipää‘s take on the issue of violence in Finnish society obscures completely the widespread gun ownership across the country and focus on stereotypical images of Swedish masculinity (and by means of the common language, transferred over to the Swedish-speaking Finns), as emasculated and weak in comparison to the Finnish heteropatriarchal masculinity in its conservative translation as heralded by the radical right populism of PS. In other words being exposed to Swedish inflicts irreversible damage to Finnish heteropatriachal masculinity and reveals its extreme vulnerability, since violence is the only means to release the frustration of forced-learning and symbolically erase the signs of the less-than-masculine (read Swedish-language exposed). Apparently this is how real Finnish men are crafted: complete resistance to Swedish and everything the Swedish language represents in Finland, and if this is not possible then the only manly solution is indiscriminate violence against innocent bystanders.

In a parallel development that echoes the references to the fifth column of Swedish-speaking Finns, PS has lashed out at the  Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (SFP/ Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ Svenska folkpartiet) and demanded her resignation. PS accused her for the allegedly too liberal take on Finnish migration policy, which apparently has resulted in a surge in the numbers of asylum seekers in Finland (tässä, här, here). PS reacted to the 6000 or so family reunification applications received by the ministry, which are considered to be the direct effect of the overly lax immigration policy in the past years. What PS did not mention was the extremely high rejection rate of such applications, but in turn focused on the generous financial support offered by the Finnish state to those very few who are granted asylum and allowed to bring their families to Finland. It is not the first time when PS criticized Minister Thors for her work. At times of economic hardship, their accusations may sound very comforting to the disenchanted jobless and economically struggling Finns across the country. The PS implicit critique is that such an attitude risks to undermine the Finnish national being, since the newcomers, mainly from Somalia and Iraq represent an extreme embodiment of the Other, both religiously (i.e. non-Christian) and racially (non-European). The large non-Finnish families would thus change the population dynamic in the country, and undermine the hegemonic position of the Finnish man by exposing him to competition from the Other men.

One may wonder if learning Swedish, even when it is a mandatory discipline, leads to such frustration that justifies violent manifestations against innocent people around (like in the tragic school shootings in Jokela and Kauhajoki; or in the shooting spree in Espoo/ Esbo)? Is Finnish conservative heteropatriarchal masculinity really threatened by Swedish language abilities? Even more worryingly, is the Swedish-speaking Minister of Migration preparing quietly for an invasion of the country of True Finns (the name of the party after all) by cohorts of asylum seekers and their families from Somalia and Iraq? Is this yet another case of thinly veiled anti-Muslim sentiments against the incoming asylum seekers, or a real concern with an explosive immigration in Finland?

After all, in 2008 there were 467 favorable decisions for family reunification , and some 2 170 people were received by Finnish municipalities; one can imagine their impact on the overall Finnish population of 5 326 314 (the numbers are taken from the Finnish statistical public authority, for different language versions: tässä, här, here).

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Sunday, February 7th, 2010 Miscellaneous No Comments

Improbable Meeting: Madonna Faces Romanian Essentialist Nationalism on the Gypsy/Romani Question.

Probably Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour  in Europe was awaited with great expectation and excitement. One by one, European cities have greeted her and her music. Most notably, with the occasion of her concert in Bucharest (Romania), she chose to address a message of tolerance towards one of the most discriminated against minorities in Europe: the Romani, commonly known as Gypsies:

“It has been brought to my attention … that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe. [...] It made me feel very sad. [...] We don’t believe in discrimination … we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone.” (Associated Press)

How was her message met? By boos and jeers from some of the 60,000 people gathered for her concert. And that was just the beginning, since Romanian press took up the subject and transformed it into a matter of hurt national pride. Not few were the editorials that questioned her motivations, her position, and her right to make such a statement in Bucharest. Inflammatory pieces accused Madonna of equaling Romanians with Gypsies, and of purposefully exploiting this subject, a painful one for Romanians, for her own marketing purposes. A Romanian TV channel (link in Romanian) collected the opinions of average Romanians on the topic. Tellingly, they read: “the fact that a whole nation did not succeed to educate and civilize this ethnic group, but on the contrary [...] is no reason for national pride,” reads one comment; “I see no difference between our discrimination against Gypsies and their discrimination against the Blacks,” is another reaction; “Why don’t you [Madonna] go one night in Ferentari [a neighborhood in Bucharest with the reputation of the most violent and poorest borough in the city; inhabited by a large Romani population] to enrich a little your knowledge about them. To be robbed, beaten up, and possibly… to be still alive afterward,” recommends another.

They all revealed the uneasiness of a large majority in Romania with the subject. The “Gypsy question” so to speak, brings forward the shameful episode occurred a couple of years ago in Rome (Italy), when a Romanian Gypsy allegedly robbed and raped an Italian woman. At that time, the Italian press was quick to make the analogy between Romani and Romanians, to the deep dislike of latter group. Unfortunately, the tragic episode in Rome is one of a multitude of such stories. Even in Romania, Gypsies (as they are commonly called) are accused of raping, stealing, and pillaging “common” Romanians. Little was done to improve their status of pariahs and marginalized group. Behind the well intended initiatives, there is a deep seated distrust that very easily degenerates into violence against them.

It seems that a Romanian essentialist nationalist cliche has taken hold of the debate in which the Gypsy are stereotyped as uncivilized, robbers, beggars, and rapists, unworthy of any help, and the source of all possible evils and national shames. Gypsies as a whole group are accused of actively resisting “civilization”, “integration”, assimilation in the name of “Europeanization”, strikingly reminding of racist reasoning and civilizational superiority. The Romanians may be considered Easterners elsewhere in Europe, but they have identified an immediate Other at home that can be regarded with contempt. In other words, discrimination and hierarchical structuring of Whiteness goes in concentric geographical circles, from the very White and very Western center, to the intermediate Eastern Europeans, and it meets its Easternmost periphery in the person of Romani people.

Even more unsettling is that not all Romanians are some innocent, saintly creatures either (not that it would come at a huge surprise to anyone). More often than not one reads (if there is any such interest) about horrendous acts of violence of Romanians against Romanians. Newspapers are bursting nowadays with news about fathers that rape their children, women that sell their newborns, women that are being trafficked. The less fortunate aspect is that even these are oftentimes dismissed with a quick brush “The perpetrator must have been a Gypsy! No Romanian would ever do that.”

But then a whole range of questions arise: Really, is it really only the Gypsy/ Romani/ or whatever one may wish to name them, the ones who must take the blame? Why is not there any thorough interrogation about the so-called deep Romanian values, and the much heralded “true” ways of being a Romanian, and to compare them with what actually happens in the country, or wherever else in Europe Romanians may happen to be? Why is it so difficult to assume responsibility for one’s own deeds? Is hating the less privileged such an easy and convenient way out, postponing emancipation from old stereotypes and toxic judgments? Perhaps it is about the time the whole Eastern Europe (keeping in mind the horrendous anti-Romani acts in Hungary, and the strong discrimination they face elsewhere in the region) needs to accept its responsibility and seriously engage in a wider discussion about the Romani/Gypsy with the very Romani/Gypsy that are so easily accused and discriminated.

And this is, unfortunately, just one side of the issues some Romanians have when it comes to relating themselves to Romani people. In a similar vein, Madonna’s appeal for fighting discrimination against the LGBT community, at the same concert, was met with even stronger boos and jeers. In this light, it seems that Romanian essentialist nationalism is one deeply anchored in racism and patriarchal heterosexism, highly intolerant with anything not conforming to the norm, but at the same time extremely uncertain about its own identity and aspiring to a “rightful” place in the “Great family of European nations”.

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Friday, August 28th, 2009 Miscellaneous No Comments

Investigating Radical Right Populist Discourses: Conceptual Metaphors.

Lately, I have been working on a paper titled ‘Conceptual Metaphors at Work in Radical Right Populist Discourses: Romania Is a Family and It Needs a Strict Father.’ My intent was to flesh out how certain metaphors were consistently employed by the two presidential hopefuls from the Romanian radical right populist parties in their 2004 televised final confrontation. The two were Vadim Tudor of the Greater Romania Party (PRM/Partidul Romania Mare) and George Becali of the New Generation Party (PNG-CD/Partidul Noua Generatie). The conceptual metaphor of the STRICT FATHER (i.e. the power to take care of the family members in need; the Messianic ability to read and interpret holly texts; the capacity of deciding who belongs to the family and who is excluded; the commitment to enforcing the set rules; and the ability to punish wrong doers, and bring justice to the defenseless) made direct reference to that of the NATION IS A FAMILY conceptual metaphor. The way these metaphors were used underlined a deeply heteropatriarchal structuring at work in the radical right populism in Romania. The discourses were obsessively structured around male figures, and their possible male contenders; women were almost invisible, and when their existence was acknowledged, they were presented merely as some subordinated beings. From this point of view, I think that a closer look from a feminist perspective at how such metaphors structure the reality these parties put forward and want to make people take as given is a worth doing enterprise.

I will present it within the workshop titled ‘From postcommunism and transitology to non-teleological change. Present and future research on Eastern and Central Europe.’ organized by Associate Professor Ann-Cathrine Jungar, research leader at CBEES, Södertörn University College, Stockholm.

The workshop is arranged by the CBEES (Center for Baltic and East European Studies) theme ‘Society and the Political’, and it aims at ‘at bringing together junior and senior scholars in the social sciences and humanities (political science, sociology, economics, ethnology and history) doing research on the political, economic and social developments in Eastern and Central Europe.  The workshop is divided into thematic slots, which are introduced by senior scholars with experience in the specific research area and in which the participants are invited to present their ongoing research. A special session is devoted to issues of fieldwork in the area.’ (quoted from a more extensive workshop description; for more details, please read here).

I am very curious about the feedback I will get from the other researchers on Eastern Europe, especially since mine is very specific a reserch topic and it is undertaken from a consciously chosen gender sensitive perspective. In general populists managed to present masculinity as the norm, and I wonder if this would be accepted as such or discussed critically. I think it will be a very interesting workshop.

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Thursday, June 4th, 2009 Research No Comments