Conference in Transylvania on Multiculturalism

In October, I am off to one of the great places in the world: Transylvania. It is for a conference in Baia Mare, but the experience is much more than merely a conference. If you can go, go. I’ll be talking on socialist theory and practices concerning nationalities, with China as a case study.

The International Conference of Cultural Studies

 “Multiculturalism and the Need for Recognition”

Baia Mare, 14-16 October, 2016

 

Baia Mare

Key note speakers:

Professor Roland Boer, Newcastle University, Australia

Professor Paul Cliteur, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Professor Otoiu Adrian, Tech Univ of Cluj-Napoca, North Univ Centre of Baia Mare, Romania

Mohandas K. Gandhi once said “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive”. This adage surely favours the ethics of multiculturalism placing the accent on the acceptance and integration of different cultures in a given society. And indeed, the basic objectives of multiculturalism have always been to assist cultural groups in retaining and fostering their identity, at the same time overcoming barriers to their full participation in society, to promote creative exchanges among all cultural groups, and to assist immigrants in coping with the inherent processes of cultural adaptation, mixing, and mélange.

In spite of all these, there are still voices which claim that multiculturalism does, in fact, undermine the main cultural identity of a state, endangering social unity and cohesion, and being a constant cause of conflict. Although there are voices which tend to emphasise the benefits of McLuhan’s “global village”, there are also pessimistic previsions which incline to the belief that the universe we now inhabit is nothing but a global dystopia in which various ethnic groups are engaged in asserting their need for recognition.

The idea that we are all in each other’s back yard is not so easily digestible. Not if we have in mind countries that see and understand the concept of nation in terms of ethnicity, placing the accent on the role of the ethnic group.

Presently there are countless voices that have expressed their reluctance and resistance against multiculturalism. The best example in this respect is the answer given by Central and Eastern Europe to the refugees’ crisis, an answer based exactly on the previously mentioned idea of the ethnic based national state.

The global pattern seems to have lost the contest, although there is still a lot of evidence which can testify to homogenization in global media, tourism and many other aspects of consumption. There is, nevertheless, plenty of evidence of the opposite, i.e. a constant, gradually increasing interest in ‘ethnic’ products and a need for recognition translated into a search for local authenticity.

Multiculturalism also makes reference to political correctness which can be easily translated into the efforts of previously marginalized groups to construct new identities, based on the questions of “Who am I?”, “What is my cultural heritage?”. The advocates of political correctness underline the necessity that the language employed in dealing with various ethnic groups be consistent with the principles of multiculturalism, thus avoiding stereotypes of all kinds, at the same time enhancing minorities’ self-esteem. However, there are voices which claim that political correctness and consequently multiculturalism threaten free speech, being contrary to reality and human nature.

In view of the already mentioned ideas, we invite scholars from all fields of research to explore issues related to the concepts of multiculturalism, globalization, glocalization, political correctness, politics of identity and their impact on our everyday life in the larger context of present day migrational movements.

The questions we invite you to answer are:

  • What are the lessons of multiculturalism?
  • To what degree can they be implemented?
  • Should the recent negative wave of reactions against multiculturalism mean something?
  • Are the ethnic based nations ready to be initiated in a multicultural spirit?
  • Is this tentative project of a multicultural Europe going to survive?
  • Are the former colonizers going to be colonized?
  • Can we erase the identity/alterity opposition or is it more prominent than ever?
  • Having in mind Milton Bennett’s six distinct kinds of experience spread across the continuum from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism (denial, defense, minimization, acceptance, adaptation and integration) where would we situate ourselves?
  • Is politically correct language an imposition meant to distort reality and human nature or a way to protect cultural groups?

The organizers welcome papers in, yet not limited to, the following domains: science and technology, arts (literature, linguistics, theatre, visual arts, music) and sociology, politics, business and education, human rights and philosophy. The languages of the presentations might be Romanian, English, French and German.

Submit a 250-word abstract by May 1st, 2016 along with your professional details (name, title affiliation) to lect. dr. Tomoiaga Ligia (ligiatomoiaga@gmail.com) and lect. dr. Falaus Anamaria (anamariafelecan@gmail.com).

The time allotted to the presentation of a paper is 15 minutes, followed by 10-minute sessions of questions and answers.

For registration please visit our website:  http://litere.cunbm.utcluj.ro/multiculturalism/

Participation fee:

  • 40 Euros for international participants paying by 1 June 2016 and 50 Euros for the rest of them;
  • 100 lei for Romanian participants paying by 1 June 2016 and 150 lei for the others

Participation fee shall be paid to the account bellow, with the note:

“International Conference of Cultural Studies”

Beneficiary:
Technical University of Cluj Napoca – North University Centre of Baia Mare

Address:
62A Victor Babes Street, 430083 Baia Mare, Maramures, Romania
Fiscal code: 3825886
Bank: Banca Comerciala Romana
SWIFT: RNCBROBU
IBAN: RO 21 RNCB 0182 0341 4879 0026

The peer-reviewed papers of the conference are going to be published in a Cambridge Scholars Publishing volume.

For any additional information do not hesitate to contact us:

lect. dr. Tomoiaga Ligia (ligiatomoiaga@gmail.com)

lect. dr. Falaus Anamaria (anamariafelecan@gmail.com)

 

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The ‘Failure’ of Communism: A ‘Fall’ Narrative

A new article of mine is up at Philosophers for Change: The ‘Failure’ of Communism.

Update: I am told that this article has taken off somewhat, with more than 1,000 ‘likes’ on the facebook page for Philosophers for Change.

Lost in Transylvania

As some of you may know, I have recently spent a week in Transylvania with some of the best hosts in the world. It began in Bucharest, from where I took the ‘express’ to Baia Mare, the second last stop on the route.

‘Express’ meant it stopped at every second station, and in between it rolled along at a very leisurely pace – absolutely the best way to travel. 14 hours it took, for 690km:

Once in Transylvania (Maramureş to be exact) I enjoyed the mating rituals of the locals:

Was intrigued by the burial practices:

Was drawn to diabolically spicy Reformed churches:

And even more alluring Orthodox churches in the villages:

I even went to a rock concert:

But what really intrigued me was the fact that students and professors have different toilets – the professors a type of unisex arrangement:

Throughout this time, I kept being offered clear liquid in plastic bottles, which I naturally thought was water. Ţuică is its name, I was told, although I couldn’t figure out why it was served in small earthenware vessels and had a rather fiery taste. Which is probably why I thought this was the main road home:

By the time I realised I had been swilling the 60% proof plum-brandy, the locals were ready to celebrate my departure with gay abandon:

Can’t wait to return …

Spicy Reformed theology

Is Reformed theology spicy?

Given that one of the Romanian words for ‘spicy’ is ‘diabolic’ – as I found with the diabolical pasta I ate on my last night there;

Given that the main source of such spicy food is the sizable Hungarian (Magyar) population in Transylvania;

Given that the religion of these Magyars is Reformed (Calvinist) Christianity;

One can only conclude that Reformed theology is indeed diabolically spicy.

Was life under communism better?

In an interview with The New York Herald in 1921, Lenin says:

Some people in America have come to think of the Bolsheviks as a small clique of very bad men who are tyrannizing over a vast number of highly intelligent people who would form an admirable government among themselves the moment the Bolshevik regime was overthrown (Collected Works, vol. 36, p. 538).

What is remarkable about this anti-communist propaganda is both how boringly similar it has been for about 90 years and how pervasive it remains. Anyway, given that those cliques of ‘very bad men’ have now been overthrown and they have been replaced by ‘admirable governments’ of ‘highly intelligent people’, let’s have a look at the state of play in the ‘post-communist’ countries of Eastern Europe

Then there is this recent survey in Romania:

Only 27 percent of Romanians said communism was “wrong,” while 47 percent answered “it was a good idea, but badly applied” and 14 percent thought it was a “good idea, and well applied.” A striking 78 percent said neither they, nor their families, ever suffered under communism.

All of this took place under that evil, hated ‘dictator’, Nikolai Ceausescu.

Let us now move to Bulgaria, a place I know quite well. In a recent book, Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism, Kristen Ghodsee notes a growing nostalgia for the communist era. Why, especially in a supposedly Stalinist state? When capitalism was suddenly imposed in 1989, a few well-connected foreigners and a new local class of oligarchs and criminals took over the formerly state-owned assets – those we would call ‘business people’. Ordinary people felt they had been robbed, many lost their jobs just as the state’s social support system was dismantled. Is this unique to Bulgaria? No, it’s called capitalism as usual.

Mind you, these are states that were supposed to be unbearably repressive, paragons of dictatorship. And not, say, Yugoslavia, which was often held up as example of a humane and workable communism. While we are in Yugoslavia: four in five people with whom I speak from the ‘former Y’ tell me that it worked pretty well.

At this point the well-oiled reply of the Right will probably come in: yes, of course, older people can get nostalgic for dictatorships and autocracies, because they had some certainties in their lives, however bad things might have been. But we can dismiss these feeble longings of the old …

Crap. I have met young Russians, born either just before or after 1989, who have together raised toasts to – the USSR! Add to that the fact – as a colleague in Kiev reports after much research – that perhaps one or two countries in the former Eastern Bloc have attained the GDP of 1989 – after more than two decades of capitalism.

Maybe, just maybe people actually value things such as universal health cover, education, full employment, short working days, plenty of time to meet and talk. Maybe, just maybe, planned economies are in fact better. Even the hated (in Eastern Europe) and former anti-communist Zizek seems to think communism was better. As he puts it: we had cradle-to-grave security, never took our rulers seriously and had the mythical West to dream about.

Then again, as a friend from one of these places told me some time ago: when we learnt about capitalism at school, we all thought that it really wasn’t that bad, that our teachers were simply making it up; but now, living under capitalism, I realise that what they said was true.

Utopia conference: Baia Mare, Romania

For those of you thinking of going to the Maramureş, up in the mountains of northern Romania this October (looks like I’m going to be there). Check out the brilliant website:

The North University of Baia Mare, the Faculty of Letters, Department for Foreign Languages

Second Call for Paper

The Third International Anniversary Conference

From Francis Bacon to William Golding: Utopias and Dystopias of Today and of Yore

October 20th – 23rd 2011

We are celebrating 450 years since Francis Bacon’s birth, and 100 years since William Golding’s by launching an invitation to an interdisciplinary fathoming of the depths of the human attraction toward utopias and dystopias. Whether they use the Baconian method ‘invented’ by the 1st (and last) Viscount Saint Alban, or the allegorical treatment of places and characters of the British dystopian poet and novelist, there are hundreds of writers, poets, artists, philosophers and critics that have added new facets and interpretations to the dreams or nightmares of humanity concerning their social organization, political hazards, humanist and religious values, as well as future heavens or apocalypses.

From the New Atlantis to Oleanna, Shangri-La, Xanadu or Shambala, many such Arcadian sites have been imagined by humanity to place their utopian visions. Dystopias are envisaged horrid places of Amalgamation, of the human being living in a Limbo, or in such places like Kazohinia, Kallocain, the future Zanzibar, the Metropole, the Terraplane, Metro 2033, or Grandoria. Since Foucault we also speak of Heterotopias, which are so fashionable in popular culture, especially with such complex and mixed symbols as those present in museums, theme parks, malls, holiday resorts, gated communities, wellness hotels and festival markets…. . Ecotopias, which started in the Hippie Movement with tones of primitivism and eco-anarchism are ‘sweetened’ by such contemporary dreams as the green skyscrapers, or the hovering cities…..

We invite contributions from academics in the domains of philology, philosophy, theology, psychology, and the arts to tackle any aspect of the above, in a conference that will combine paper presentations with cultural events, and with our tribute to the great two personalities that we are celebrating. Theme theatre performances, as well as art exhibitions, movies and musical events will come to add new insights into the vast domain, as well as into the lives and work of Bacon and Golding. We are only suggesting a few guidelines for panel discussions, but we are open to other suggestions, as well, for papers presented either in English or in Romanian:

–         the rhetoric of utopian and dystopian writings;

–         recurrent themes in literary and philosophical debates on utopias and dystopias;

–         genres of utopian and dystopian literary creations;

–         postmodern thinking and Foucault’s concept of heterotopia;

–         ecotopias and New Age; environmentalist interpretations of the future;

–         Bacon and his vision of a New Atlantis;

–         William Golding’s dystopian vision on the ‘civilized’ human being;

–         social and religious utopias and dystopias;

–         transformation, evolution or devolution of utopian thinking during the centuries….

Keynote speakers:

Professor Ian Buchanan, Cardiff University

Professor Roland Boer, Newcastle University

Professor George Achim, North University

 

Scientific Committee:

Prof. Ana Olos, North University (British, American and Canadian studies)

Professor Adrian Otoiu, North University (British, American and Canadian studies)

Professor George Achim, North University (Romanian and European studies)

Professor Petru Dunca, North University (Philosophy and Theology)

Professor Rodica Turcanu, North University (Germanic Cultural studies and  linguistics)

 

Publication committee and reviewers:

Professor Ian Buchanan, Cardiff University

Professor Roland Boer, Newcastle University

Professor Danny Robinson, Bloomsburg University

Professor Petre Dunca, North University

As we would like to encourage a true interdisciplinary participation, with papers delivered both in English and Romanian, we will decide upon sections after the scientific committee has selected the most interesting propositions. Therefore, please fill in the registration form below, and send it to the organizing committee to the following address: baconandgolding@gmail.com by April 25, 2011. For further queries please refer to our website http://baconandgolding.ubm.ro or contact Mrs. Ligia Tomoiaga, at tomoiagaligia@gmail.com

All participants will have 15 minutes for paper presentation and 10 minutes for discussions. Please bring papers in electronic version with you: Time New Roman, 12, with endnotes, APA style.

For those who would like to participate, but who for reasons of distance and cost cannot be present in person, we offer the possibility of video conferencing.

The conference registration fee is € 50 and it covers participation costs, coffee breaks, lunches and conference portfolio. Participation through video conference is € 30 .

We are currently discussing the possibility of publishing our proceedings in an ISBN volume, with Cambridge Scholars Publishing, for papers written in English. The costs will be announced at the conference. Papers will be considered for publication by three independent reviewers. The other papers will be published in a bilingual volume (with ISBN) at the North University Publishing House.