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Radu-Alexandru Dragoman

Radu-Alexandru Dragoman is an archaeologist based in the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, Vasile Pârvan Institute of Archaeology of the Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania, working on the biography of Neolithic pottery, ritual and religion in the Neolithic, the archaeology of mountains, the archaeology of the recent past (with a focus on political repression and communist modernity), and the political dimensions of Romanian archaeology. He is currently exploring the value of Christian theological perspectives in relation to the study of material culture. His publications include Arheologie şi politică în România (2013; with Sorin Oanţă-Marghitu) and Materiality of the Piteşti Experiment: An Archaeological Essay on the Memory of Repression and Resistance in Communist Romania (2015).

Forgetting our own lives: self-colonization, anticommunism and capitalist ideology in the Romanian archaeology of today

The socio-political changes of 1989 were welcomed by the Romanian archaeologists with high hopes in the revival of their discipline, marked under the communist regime by isolation, political control and modest material conditions or even poverty. One of the new and positive research directions that emerged after 1990 was that of the archaeology of the recent past, the central topic so far being the research of the communist political repression. Over the years, a whole series of archaeological excavations were carried out across the country in the places where victims were believed to have been buried. Importantly, this research has given rise not only to debates on Romania's recent history, but also to critical evaluations of the epistemological foundations of the discipline. Two main opposing epistemological zones in the study of the human remains and the associated materiality can be noted: a positivistic one (non-theoretical and non-reflexive), with a long tradition and still dominant in Romanian archaeology; and a much younger, post-processual one (interpretative and reflexive), adopted by very few. However, both zones are not homogenous: within each it is possible to identify different research agendas producing different narratives. Based on an analysis of the discourses promoted in the archaeologies of the recent past, in this talk I argue that, in contrast to the optimism of the 1990s, but also in opposition to both positivistic and some of the post-processual perspectives, the present day Romanian archaeology is a discipline colonized epistemologically and ideologically by the "West", with no place for the local historical experience. The archaeologies of the recent past in Romania are at best a peripheral / local application of Western research philosophies and agendas, and at worst, a tool for legitimizing capitalist ideology. Therefore, I make a plea for the decolonisation of the Romanian archaeological practice and for the thinking of new archaeological approaches forged by our own existential and historical experiences.

 

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