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9s WCED Lecture. “Purity and Danger in Romania’s ‘Transitional Justice’: Purging Enemies through the Securitate Files.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009
4:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB

Katherine Verdery, Julien J. Studley Faculty Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, City University of New York Graduate Center. Sponsors: WCED, CES-EUC, CREES.

Across Eastern Europe following 1989, the matter of “transitional justice” has been of great, if varying, importance. A key instrument for it has been the practice of “lustration” (meaning purification). Although the political impetus for lustration appears a clearly democratizing one, underlying the practice we can see continuities with a prior communist practice and mentality: to purge the polity of its “enemies.” As before, “purifying” the body politic of “polluting” elements involves fomenting a politics of denunciation and unmasking, occasionally giving rise to feeding frenzies reminiscent of the days of the show trial. This talk will explore some of the issues raised by lustration and specifically by its reliance on Secret Police files, which are usually considered highly problematic as sources of “truth.”

"The Nines: Brinks, Cusps, and Perceptions of Possibility—from 1789-2009"
In Fall 2009, the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, along with other partnering units at the University of Michigan, will present programs exploring the relationship between world-historic events and the alternative futures they inspired. From the explosion of alternatives in 1919 to the normalization of democratic destinies in 1989, from the crisis of 1929 to the anxieties of 2009, this series will delve into the many iconic "nines" of the modern era.