The ‘Foreign Enemy’ in the Archives: Constructing the ‘Communist’ Enemy in the Discourse of Political Detention in Romania

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Theodora Eliza Vacarescu, University of Bucharest, Romania

    This paper is not about the history of communist political detention in Romania per se. I am not after finding and establishing ‘facts’ about the way the detention system functioned. Instead, I examine how historical ‘facts’ about communist detention are constructed and how ethnic and gender categories are produced and reproduced along the way. My main sources of inquiry are archival documents and I additionally resort to other sites of meaning and knowledge production – historical narratives about communist detention and media discourses. I seek to challenge the unitary and monolithic historical narrative of communist imposition and perpetration as foreign and alien to the Romanian self. To this aim, I explore how archival documents produce the communist enemy as ‘the other’ of the Romanian self along the lines of ethnicity and gender: How do archival documents construct the communist ‘enemies’? What are the categories used to name and identify these enemies? What are the mechanisms that establish and legitimate these categories and what are the politics that inform the hierarchies produced by this historical narrative? Whose interests do these categories and hierarchies serve? In this way, I show how archives can constitute a site for the construction of a narrative that works as a mechanism of removal of the guilt of communism from the Romanian self, by means of producing a ‘foreign’ communist other. I look at the documents generated during the 1950s and the 1960s for the research and archival database of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Research Institute and I inquire into the structures and dynamics of the information produced, evaluated, and stored in the archive. Thus, argue that these narratives produce and reproduce ethnic and gender categories that serve the purpose of removing the ‘guilt’ of communism from the Romanian self, while, at the same time, creating and legitimizing an ‘other’ against which the Romanian self can be defined.