During the month dedicated to women, the Humanitas in Cismigiu Bookstore hosted the launch of the volume 'The Birth of Democratic Citizenship: Women and Power in Modern Romania', authored by Maria Bucur and Mihaela Miroiu. The book analyzes the way that women are perceived in post-communist Europe. Maria Bucur teaches gender studies at the University of Indiana in the US. She told us that this book was a special opportunity for her:
“The entire project started, obviously, from the friendship that I have with Mihaela, which led me to read a lot and discussed a lot. It lasted 10 years, but it was worth it. I learned an enormous amount. I didn't use to think as normatively as I do now. I think I had very much to learn. My interdisciplinarity has widened enormously, and this is extraordinary for me. The opportunity to meet these women that Mihaela introduced was the chance of a lifetime.”
Field research led to a history of women in Romania after 1990. The book by Maria Bucur and Mihaela Miroiu is the first such endeavor in Romania:
“The history chapter, which provides a historical context, was not there in the beginning. We ran field studies that we wanted to analyze, and we realized that in fact in Romania there is no history of women to help you understand these voices, the space to place them, and what gender structures and norms have led their legal, political, and educational status.”
Mihaela Miroiu teaches at the National School of Political and Administrative Studies in Bucharest. She is one of the founders of feminist and gender studies in Romania, as well as of the first gender studies graduate and doctoral degrees in the country. The book she launched at Humanitas was initially a personal project:
“In a way, this book was my moment of saying 'Let me get back to the primordial woman'. The ones who raised me, as a generation, the ones among which I was shaped, as a generation, and the ones that followed. It is about the grandmothers- mothers- daughters generation. There wasn't much premeditated thinking in the book, it just turned out this way. What is great is that we have those three long interviews, really long, five or six hours.”
Along modern history, women have been struggling to be recognized as fully equal in moral, intellectual, political, and civic terms. Romanian women, even the older ones, seem to have an innate civic spirit, according to Mihaela Miroiu:
“The political culture of these women passes with flying colors. They may not be sophisticated, but it is clear that they have the notion of interests that can be sorted out politically. It is very clear that, from their point of view, a democracy and a type of politics in which morality has vanished is not politics in the sense of the science and practice of living together, it has nothing to do with the common good. They would be quite at home in consolidated democracies, such as the Scandinavian ones. Their values, their ways of seeing politics, means politics of this sort.”
Field research in Sancrai, a Transylvanian village in the heart of Romania, provided the two authors the opportunity of getting to know the life stories of simple, yet extraordinary women.
“You can see their evolution, from near to far, irrespective of the fact that they are 80 year-old women from Sancrai that have four years of school, or city women, many of them physicians, teachers, engineers, highly qualified. They are extraordinarily similar in their aspirations, the types of issues they have, and they are very similar because they cannot stand the separation between the morality and the practice of politics. The book encourages that.”
The book was published in 2018 in the US, at Indiana University Press, and is now available in Romanian, published by Humanitas, in the Contemporary History collection, translated and adapted by Magda Dragu and Mihaela Miroiu:
“Of course we had to have a Romanian version, with fluently spoken Romanian, where you can have those interviews in the original. This is living language, it is interesting, and could not be very formalized. We did the research in Sancrai at a time when these retired grandmas were helping out their grandsons and granddaughters if they couldn't find jobs. This was before the exodus for foreign jobs was so intense. In fact, this is living history that they reflect on. We're not the ones talking about this history, they are, which is great. From their point of view, there is no such thing as citizenship aimed at rights without a citizenship of care. For them, the care element, as everyday ethics and practice, is part of the way in which they think about people.”
All those interested in the history of post-communist Europe should read the book 'The Birth of Democratic Citizenship: Women and Power in Modern Romania', authored by Maria Bucur and Mihaela Miroiu, which debates basic issues in Romania, but also in two other former communist countries, Poland and Hungary.