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CREES Noon Lecture. “The Foreign Queen and the Ultranationalist Legionaries: Early 20th-Century Appropriations and Manipulations of the Romanian Peasant Dress.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

Using archival materials and selected literary and propaganda texts, this project explores the ways Romanian peasant dress was repurposed into an identity and nation building tool by two different historical groups. The first part of the project focuses on Queen Marie Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and her choice to wear a Romanian peasant dress for her 1893 marriage to Carol, king of Romania, and to favor the same attire during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and her 1926 visit to the US. The second part of the project showcases the ways the peasant dress and the Orthodox faith were appropriated during the 1920s and 1940s by the ultranationalist, anticommunist, and anti-Semitic Legion of Archangel Michael, or the Iron Guard.

Understanding these early 20th-century identity and nation building instances via appropriations and manipulations of the peasant dress is particularly important when investigating emergent revivalist and ultranationalist movements in Romania. The ways these contemporary groups fetishize and modernize an even older ethnic dress, that of the ancient Dacians, are indicative of two things: the perceived need to claim territorial and historical continuity and ethnic purity, and the persistent and problematic drive to reshape national identity around pre-modern ancestor attributes. Ultimately, the aim of the project is to further the study of present day racial and ethnic discrimination in Romania and refocus attention on their much older, pre-communist, causes.

Corina Kesler received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from U-M in 2011. She lectured in the Honors Program of her alma mater and then joined the Mouseion Professors in London, UK, as an Associate Researcher and Author. Presently, she is a Michigan-Mellon Humanities Research Postdoctoral Fellow in the Egalitarianism and the Metropolis in the LSA and Taubman Architecture Joint Program. Her current research project “At the Intersection of Here and Utopia: Emergent Designs and Minority Voices” focuses on social justice and creative art movements in Detroit. Her expanded interests include: Utopian and Science Fiction Studies; Identity and Heritage Formation Practices in 21st Century Ecotopias; World Literature and Great Texts Traditions; Theory and Practice of Translation; 20th Century Eastern European Literature and Cinema; Gender Representations in New English and Minority Literatures; 20th Century Romanian Literature, Mythology, and Folklore; Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah and Hassidism); Creative Writing (Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction); and Fashion Design/Production/Manufacturing and Human Rights. Her dissertation chapters have been published in American, British, and Portuguese academic journals. Her translation (from French) of Jean Andreau’s The Economy of the Roman Empire will soon be available from Michigan Classics Press.

This lecture is part of the series, "Material Culture and Social Change in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia." What is the role of material culture in defining national identity in everyday practices and in solidifying or fostering resistance to the state’s control of that definition? From home décor, housing projects, clothing, broken stones, graffiti, or visual arts, participants in this series highlight the importance of objects and “things” in the making of social life and politics and their transformation.

Sponsors: Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; Center for European Studies

Corina Kesler, research fellow, Michigan-Mellon Project on Egalitarianism and the Metropolis, U-M