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In Search of a Usable Past: The Question of National Identity in Romanian Studies, 1990-2000

Written by Constantin Iordachi and Balázs Trencsényi, this article apperead on the third issue of Vol. 17 of East European Politics & Societies in August 2003. 
 
This article offers an overview of the scholarly debates on Romanian nation building and national ideology during the first post-communist decade. It argues that the globalization of history writing and the increasing access of local intellectual discourses to the international “market of ideas” had a powerful impact on both Eastern European history writing and on the Western scholarly literature dealing with the region. In regard to Romanian historiography, the article identifies a conflict between an emerging reformist school that has gained significant terrain in the last decade and a traditionalist canon, based on the national-communist heritage of the Ceauşescu regime, preserving a considerable influence at the institutional level. In analyzing their clash, the article proposes an analytical framework that relativizes the traditional dichotomy between “Westernizers” and “autochthonists,” accounting for a multitude of ideological combinations in the post-1989 Romanian cultural space. In view of the Western history writing on Romania, the article identifies a methodological shift from social-political narratives to historical anthropology and intellectual history. On this basis, it evaluates the complex interplay of local and external historiographic discourses in setting new research agendas, experimenting with new methodologies, and reconsidering key analytical concepts of the historical research on Eastern Europe.

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