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Title:The socialist sacred: atheism, religion, and mass culture in Romania, 1948-1989
Author(s):Magdó, Zsuzsánna
Director of Research:Todorova, Maria N.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Todorova, Maria N.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hitchins, Keith; Steinberg, Mark; Gille, Zsuzsa
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
the sacred
Eastern Europe
the Soviet Union
Abstract:Drawing on new archival sources, official publications, and oral histories, I challenge the self-portrayal of socialist civilizations as scientific, secular, and the "other" of everything religious. Between 1948 and 1989, the Romanian communist regime sought to disenchant believers with a scientific, materialist worldview. Yet, it likewise strove to imbue citizens' lives with socialist sacred meaning. My work demonstrates that we cannot understand late socialism’s contradictory drive for rationalization and re-enchantment without examining how elites produced knowledge about atheism and lived religion. This dissertation analyzes elite interactions with believers and the Central Committee from 1948, when transforming religiosity emerged as a party priority, to the end of the socialist era. My chapters focus on science popularizers, preservationists, sociologists, and folklorists in institutions of cultural administration and research newly created to manage socialist beliefs and behavior. These elites shaped the place of religion and atheism in Romanian society while competing for resources within the centralized structure of the Party-State. Their voices mattered because they engaged believers for whom national and religious belonging coincided. Elites also provided specialized knowledge for party organs committed to achieve convergence between ideology and citizens’ subjectivity. This dissertation combines approaches from cultural history, anthropology, and sociology to reveal key sites of conceptual labor and expert power within purportedly monolithic party-states. I also historicize the re-composition of lived religion by examining how religious majorities and minorities engaged with a socialist ideology that competed to provide overarching meaning to individual and collective life. On a broader scale, my work provides a comparative history of atheism in Eastern Europe by de-centering the Soviet Union and illuminates the socialist experiment as part of a global modernity, inherently defined by a tense yet interdependent relationship between disenchantment and sacralization.
Issue Date:2016-07-13
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Zsuzsánna Magdó
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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