The Knowledge of the Securitate: Secret Agents as Anthropologists

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Abstract

In this paper I regard the Securitate (the Romanian secret police) as an epistemic form through which the socialist state gathered knowledge about reality, while it also performatively sought to create reality in keeping with its ideological presuppositions. More generally I suggest that the Securitate was in fact a form of (social) science deployed by the state in relation to its subjects. Just as any instrument of knowledge, the work of the Securitate was not simply descriptive but also, in the process, it aimed to shape its very object of inquiry. The Securitate was one of the institutions, central no doubt, through which the Romanian socialist state sought to define and protect its own, new, version of reality and social order. From this perspective, far from being an outcome of the socialist power, the secret police was what constituted that power to define and bring into being a new reality. In this process the secret agents played the role of anthropologists of the new world.

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