The Politics of Heritage Revival in Contemporary Romania


Dissertation Fellowships in East European Studies


The Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History


This dissertation explores the tense negotiations over the reconstitution of “heritage” as a normative cultural field in contemporary Romania. It focuses on two major projects of “built heritage revival”: the rehabilitation of a medieval city center, which is a lieu de mémoire for Transylvania’s Germans, and the reconstruction of a famous baroque castle, which is now a cultural pilgrimage site for the Transylvanian Hungarians. The study places these case studies at the conjunction of the EU officials’ attempt to construct a “European common heritage;” the Romanian state’s endorsement of a “national heritage;” and nostalgic views promoted by international NGOs, which present heritage as an accessible form of “culture” that supersedes ethnic differences, and ignores local conflicts over memorialization. This research shows how these institutional agendas collide with local efforts of redefining a collective identity at a time when individual property restitution participates in a broader individualization of rights, leaving too little room for the practice of “community.”