Ideological Storms. Intellectuals, Dictators, and the Totalitarian Temptation, edited by Vladimir Tismăneanu and Bogdan C. Iacob, Budapest: CEU Press, 2018.
This volume gathers authors who wrote important works in the fields of the history of ideology, the comparative study of dictatorship, and intellectual history. The book is a state of the art reassessment and analysis of the ideological commitments of intellectuals and their relationships with dictatorships during the twentieth century. The contributions focus on turning points or moments of rupture as well as on the continuities. Though its focus is on an East–West comparison in Europe, there are texts also dealing with Latin America, China, and the Middle East, giving the book a global outlook.
The first part of the book deals with intellectuals’ involvement with communist regimes or parties; the second looks at the persistence of utopianism in the trajectory of intellectuals who had been associated earlier in their lives with either communism or fascism; the third considers the role of intellectuals in national imaginations from the left or the right; and the fourth links late twentieth century phenomena to current phenomena, such as the persistence of anti-Semitism in the West, the slow erosion of the values upon which the EU is built, the quagmire in Iraq, and China’s rise in the post-Cold War era. The collection provides a comprehensive overview of intellectual genealogies and dictatorial developments.
by Viviana Iacob
published in Journal of Global Theater History, Bd. 2 Nr. 1 (2017): Translocating Theatre History
History of Cold War culture has moved in the last couple of years from an East versus West bipolar narrative to investigating the phenomenon from a global perspective. There is a resurgent focus on encounters between the Second and the ‘Third’ Worlds, between socialist states and those from the Global South. My paper is a contribution to the discussion about the role played by theatre exchanges in the cultural dialogue between East and South. Its focus is on Romanian and Indian attempts, starting with the mid-1950s, to bridge the distance between the two cultures. I underline the connection between broader programs of developmental assistance and the entrenchment of cultural relations between Romania and India, particularly in the realm of theatre.
I argue that economic rapprochement constituted the igniting premise for mutual discovery. Drawing from the representation of the socialist camp as the “Second World,” my paper will underline the role of Indian progressive intellectuals in the consolidation of theatre exchanges with Romania – a development that can easily be extended to relations across Eastern Europe. Based on the Romanian-Indian encounter, the paper will flesh out two interrelated evolutions in theatre diplomacy between Eastern Europe and the Global South: the importance of individual elective affinities built by way of bilateral relations in facilitating reciprocal adaptation; and, the conversion of personal experience into more systematic programs of theatre exchanges, which mirrored the developmental assistance of state socialist regimes to post-colonial societies.
by Corina Doboș
at the international conference The Gustian Sociological School after the 23rd of August 1944. Condemnation, Marginalization and Survival during the Communist Regime, University of Bucharest, 27 October, 2017.
by Viviana Iacob
at the Institute of Theatre Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, 25 October, 2017.
Viviana Iacob maps Romania’s involvement with the International Theatre Institute during its first decade of membership. The argument revolves around a number of East –West convergence high points such as the 1959 Helsinki Congress or the 1964 Bucharest Symposium. It analyzes the connections developed by Romanian theatre specialists within the framework provided by I.T.I., the specialized networks they helped create and the domestic impact of these interactions. The article examines the multifaceted Romanian involvement with these projects in national and international context. It begins in 1956, Romania’s first participation at the Dramatic Art Festival in Paris, the forerunner of I.T.I.’s Theatre of Nations Festival. It closes the arc of the story with the 1969 international symposium on training young theatre directors. The article shows that soon after joining I.T.I. ranks, Romanian theatre artist were propelled into the international limelight and were recognized by their Western peers as their equals. It advances the idea that East European theatre practitioners had a role in shaping their respective community of knowledge as much as their Western counterparts did.
by Viviana Iacob
at Spectrum of Communism — Symposium at Blinken OSA, Budapest, 16-17 November, 2017.
In 1969 two plays by Romanian playwright I. L. Caragiale opened in Calcutta: A Stormy Night and A Lost Letter. Both were adapted to Bengali by translator Amita Ray and produced by the group Panchamitram. Ray, a long time correspondent of the Institute for Cultural Relations Abroad (she visited Romania for the first time in 1959) sent clippings from the Bengali papers attesting to her excellent adaptations skills and the overall success of the two productions. The choice of plays was not haphazard. Unusual as they might seem they were in fact the spear head of a cultural diplomacy program that had the XIX century writer at its epicentre. In terms of exporting Romanian socialist culture to the world, Caragiale had quite the career during the communist period. For example, by 1969 The Lost Letter was produced by 9 different companies around the world and besides opening in Calcutta in 1969, it also premiered in Haifa.
Romania’s branching out initiative to the Global South took cue from the Soviet Union. In the late 50s, information on India was filtered through soviet journals while cultural exchanges were carried out with the support of the Institute for Cultural Relations Abroad and the Friendship Societies it managed. By 1962 four such organizations were founded in India: New Delhi, Kanpur (1958), Jaipur and Ajmer (1962). Even though they dissolved in later years, a result of the political turmoil that India was going through in the early 60s, the connections that they helped establish were used to carry further bilateral cultural activities. For example, Amita Ray’s second visit to Romania in 1967 coincided with prime minister Indira Gandhi’s and the 1969 performances in Calcutta, also prompted by Ray, preceded Nicolae Ceausescu and Gheorghe Maurer’s visit to India the same year.
Establishing a viable connection with the Global South was an arduous task. Geographical and cultural distance made finding a conversation baseline quite difficult. Furthermore, the cultural plan that Romania devised for the West, at least with respect to theatre, was also proposed to India and it took the sheer dedication of internationalists such as Amita Ray to ensure its success. The paper will outline strategies employed by the Romanian state in its attempt to expand to the global south by taking theatre exchanges with India as a case study.
by Raluca Grosescu
at Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena, 9 October 2017
The paper presented the contribution of Eastern European socialist governments and legal experts to the development of international criminal law (ICL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) during the Cold War. It discussed the socialist engagements with several ICL and IHL aspects: the definition of the ‘crime of aggression’ and of the linked charges of ‘crimes against peace’ and ‘common plan or conspiracy’ used against the Axis leaders at the post-war tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo; the efforts to expand the Geneva Conventions to non-international conflicts, and the criminalization of apartheid under international law. Finally, the paper discussed the role of state socialist experts in encoding the non-applicability of statutory limitations to international crimes. The paper argued that the socialist engagements with these fields were a combination of both progressive ideas (anti-fascism, anti-colonialism, and anti-Apartheid), and Realpolitik (the geopolitical competition with the West, expanding socialism in the Third World, and the primacy of defending state sovereignty non-interventionism in national affairs). It was a mixture that simultaneously generated new forms of international law, and hindered its advance and enforcement during the Cold War.
by Viviana Iacob
at the international conference Japan: Premodern, Modern, and Contemporary, Bucharest, 4-6 September, 2017.
Friendship societies with western countries had a seminal role in pre-Détente Cold War cultural diplomacy. In the absence of diplomatic relations, these associations initiated the first contact with the West and paved the way to blooming cultural exchanges during the Détente (from mid-sixties onward). Their activity was unidirectional in the early fifties, as it entailed the circulation of publications and the organization of events with a rather reduced impact such as exhibitions or conferences. Nevertheless, their main role was to gather contacts and enlarge the network of individuals that could better serve the dissemination of a socialist country’s culture beyond the Iron Curtain divide in the late fifties and early sixties. My paper will discuss the work carried out by the Japan –Romania Friendship Association (JRFA) founded in 1955 by a group of Japanese fellow travelers. By focusing on the cultural exports that were characteristic to this association in the larger context of East –West cultural relations between 1955 and 1965, I intend to underline what type of cultural heritage was favored by Romanian cultural officials in exchanges outside the socialist camp. My paper reveals a new genealogy to the internationalization of a Southeast European culture during the Cold War. It points to specific institutionalizations of encounters that constituted the basis for later transnational circulations of ideas and people from Southeast Europe to multiple corners of the globe.
by Raluca Grosescu
at the workshop Socialist Experts, Humanitarianism, and the Latin American Cold War Conflicts, Andhes University, Bogota, 1-3 August, 2017.
This paper examines the contribution of Eastern European socialist governments and legal experts to the development of international criminal law (ICL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) during the Cold War. It challenges the dominant scholarship that portray the Socialist Bloc as merely a roadblock to progress of international justice and humanitarianism and posits an alternative narrative: the socialist world in fact played a vital role for the emergence and consolidation of new ICL and IHL norms after 1945 and its participation was an essential element in the advancement of these fields of law. The paper discusses the socialist engagements with the definition of the ‘crime of aggression’, the linked charges of ‘crimes against peace’ and ‘common plan or conspiracy’ used against the Axis leaders at the post-war tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo, the expansion of the Geneva Conventions to non-international conflicts, the non-applicability of statutory limitations to international crimes and the criminalization of apartheid under international law.
by Bogdan C. Iacob
at the panel Global Institutions and the East-South Circulation of Knowledge, the Fifth European Congress on World and Global History (Budapest, 31 August – 3 September, 2017)
In the second of the fifties, socialist states found a new arena to showcase and perfect their identity narratives – the United Nations system. UNESCO, for instance, would often have for East Europeans the same role as it had for other so-called peripherials – the recently de-colonized societies. It was a platform for cultural emancipation. Peoples whose histories had often been doubted, marginalized, or ignored in Western centric frameworks would claim their place in a global exchange based on the alleged mutually beneficial interconnectedness of civilizations.
My paper will discuss this common ground between the socialist East and the post-colonial South in the context of UNESCO-led efforts to design a new universal history. In 1978, UNESCO decided to draft a second edition of “History of Humanity. Scientific and Cultural Development”, as the first (English title History of Mankind, published during the sixties) was deemed too Eurocentric and out-of-date in contrast with the rise of the Global South. I will examine various stages of the activity of the International Commission created for the new edition simultaneously with developments within the field of historical studies, as evidenced at the International Congresses in Bucharest (1980) and Stuttgart (1985). My aim is to flesh out different responses to the accelerated globalization of history-writing within UNESCO and the International Committee of Historical Sciences.
I am going to focus on East Europeans readings of specific issues such as imperialism, national originality, revolution, or development. I wish to signal out moments of overlap or dissonance between state socialist scholars and representatives of the Global South on matters such as the critique of the West or the affirmation of national/regional identities. In parallel, I will analyze how the dialogue between the East and the South within international fora expanded and internationalized the former’s conceptualizations about modernity.