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Book Review
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Cultural Workers from the Paintbrush Factory. Between Institution-Building and Urban Development Challenges

Abstract

The paper is an ethnography of cultural workers from the contemporary art centre from Cluj-Napoca, Romania – The Paintbrush Factory. The one-decade existence of the alternative space contributed to a range of changes in the local cultural scene and evolved from a physical space into a resource for the city’s culture-led development strategy. It also became affected and reshaped by wider changes in terms of applied cultural policies. Cultural workers’ perspective, their precarity and their involvement in the local art scene influenced the current commodification and entrepreneurialisation of the cultural offer. The Paintbrush Factory’s expansion and contraction are vividly presented through the reflexive lenses of the cultural workers and managers, whose case-study could easily be regarded as a signal and a symbol of the deficient cultural policies mostly oriented to profit and lacking any local and long term-vision.

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Genealogy of Political Theatre in Post-Socialism. From the Anti-“System” Nihilism to the Anti-Capitalist Left

Abstract

What have been the conditions of production for a political theatre to appear in post-1990s Romania? How and why contemporary theatre in Romania ended up ignoring or dismissing the leftwing, engaged or militant theatrical movements active before 1945? Why local theatre history and theory entirely obliterated, also, the politically-engaged theatre forms active during communism itself? What kind of tradition forms the contemporary political theatre, what is the politics that informs their working practices and collaborations, how do the artists engage with the groups they choose to give voice and with the audience? Using a broad and on-purpose multi-faceted definition of political theatre, the article focuses on theatre artists, practices and performances that question capitalism as a social and power structure, sometimes from an intersectional perspective, but always framing this criticism in a class approach. Largely a practice-based analysis, the text gives a comprehensive on-going history of a strong performative movement and its challenges, from the representational strategies and the financial and positioning issues to the scarcity of critical covering and reviewing and the extending of an (opposite) political engagement in the mainstream theatre in Romania.

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Intellectual Field, Networks, and Reputation Economy in Romania After 1989

Abstract

In this article, I analyse the transformations of the Romanian post-communist intellectual elites, using as a case study the disputes in the cultural press in Romania from 2002 to 2004, disagreements that influenced the repositioning of the Romanian public intellectuals through ideological alignments. Those debates gave birth afterwards to a cohesive Conservative pole and to anti-conservative tendencies of diverse political orientations, which constitutes the origin of the current divisions of the intellectual space. The analysis combines the Bourdieusian perspective on the social field and the theory of social networks with the purpose to formulate a hypothesis concerning the competitions meant to produce and preserve the prestige of the status groups in the social space that generate conflicting ideological positions. It outlines an alternative form of reassessing the “reputation economy” outside the space of the commodity exchange economy, starting instead with symbolic exchanges. The study describes the social rationale behind status production, as a source of strategies for maintaining dominant positions in a social field.

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Three Decades After. Advancing Capitalism and the (Re)Production of Romania’s Semi-Peripherality

Abstract

The article elaborates upon the production of Romania’s semi-peripherality at the intersection of long-durée dependency, uneven development, Eastern enlargement, and imperial politics, while addressing the advancement of capitalism not as a purely economic endeavour, but as a process of political subjection. It discusses the particular status of Romania in contemporary global capitalism by analysing the broader context of (1) a semi-periphery country subjected to a long-durée dependency; (2) uneven development underlay by imperial politics as endemic feature of the neoliberal European Union; (3) ‘Eastern enlargement’ and its economic conditionalities; (4) unevenness in the EU in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. As its conclusion, the article notes that in the past three decades, each of these components had a productive (material or symbolic) function in the reproduction of Romanian’s semi-peripherality as part of capitalism’s advancement in the new Millennium.

Open access
Tortuously Turning Reality into Theatre: The Case of Nicoleta Esinencu

Abstract

How do the professionals of the theatre of the real deal with the dilemmas raised by the techniques and ethics of representation that lie at the heart of this particular drama genre? There is little in the available scholarship to provide much guidance in this regard. This article addresses the question and the gap encased within it by examining the critical case of Nicoleta Esinencu, one of the most high profile contemporary drama directors of this kind in Eastern and Central Europe. Focused on the work done by Esinencu at the avant-garde Laundry-Theatre in Kishinev, the analysis dwells on the ethics of documentary work and of representing real life people, the information-gathering process, the choice of topics and the societal implications of the performance. Furthermore, the article captures the bespoke interdisciplinarity of ethnographic research and drama studies while unearthing unsuspected tensions between the claims about representing authentic experiences made by the theatre of the real and the actual perceptions of the professionals.

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Transforming Narratives: Reaction, Context and the Emerging (IM)-Possibilities of Social Discourse on Art in Cluj-Napoca

Abstract

The aim of this article is to comprehend the register of existence and the developing of social art practices and discourses in Cluj-Napoca, citing the example of the contemporary art space The Paintbrush Factory, established in 2009. Analysing the operation mode/modus operandi of artists, curators, and cultural agents of Cluj-Napoca, I study the creative pattern based on reaction as a response to the undergoing changes within the socio-political environment of the city as well as those on a global scale. The wider expansion of the urban regeneration theory, that attributes an economic growth factor to culture (based on the existence of creative industries), persuades the local authorities to create a new narrative of a Cluj-Napoca based on the image of a creative city. The Paintbrush Factory is precisely the success story – with a grassroots background, and international standing – that Cluj-Napoca Town Hall needed to legitimise its new development project that sought to put the city on Europe’s map. This ambition of the authorities is reflected in the application for the title of European Cultural Capital 2021. The story of the Paintbrush Factory mirrors this precise transformation of the city, which sees the industrial production being replaced by symbolic production. During this process factories are literally replaced by IT firms and adjacent services, while The Paintbrush Factory that had benefited from a long-term rental of a factory space is eventually displaced in this massive gentrification course of the city.

Open access
Forms of Remuneration for Free Software Production: A Reducible Complexity

Abstract

How producers of free digital goods can be compensated for their labour is a major topic of debate and controversy in Free Software and related fields. This paper analytically disentangles the multiple modes of remuneration in operation in Free Software and presents the implications from a political economy perspective. The outlook of autonomous commons-based production in information goods is situated in relation to capitalism. In the process, certain conceptual contributions are made regarding the nature of information goods and the commodity form.

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Labour Relations and Labour Structures in Mediterranean Capitalism. Caporalato and Romanian Migration in the Southern Italian Agriculture

Abstract

In this paper I will examine the structural and social features of the gang-mastered labour system (caporalato) as it appears in the agricultural production process in Italy. I will discuss the functions of this type of labour regime through an analysis of the role (Romanian) migrant labour plays in the Italian agriculture process and its need for the (informal) labour market mediation in agriculture. My aim is to critically map the function of caporalato within a production circuit that starts with the low price imposed on agricultural goods, and ends up at the top of the production process, namely with the food empires and corporate retail and distribution chains. The economic constraint for an ever cheaper labourforce, and its social context, will guide our critique of caporalato

Open access