The chapter is an auto-duo-ethnographic exercise carried out by two scholars of life-writing, who grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s in Hungary and Romania. They draw on life-writing scholarship and memory studies in order to engage with the post-socialist representations of childhood, as well as the methodological challenges that accompany such narratives. Their personal narratives allow paradoxes to coexist, and cast into doubt the inherited paradigms of the “communist child” as an icon of socialist utopia, or a traumatized victim of the repressive regime. The chapter also investigates the role of autobiographical narratives in the process of witnessing and suggests that their co-construction of each other as witnesses can never be about confirmation, but only about the articulation of their mutual co-exposure.
- Socialist Childhood
- Communist Heroes
- Adult Self
- Powerful Resurgence
- Socialist Realist Painting
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
See, for instance, Dubravka Ugrešić, Slavenka Drakulić, Aleksander Hemon, and Gary Shteyngart.
Exceptions include Georgescu Ceauşescu’s Children (2015), Bădică & Popescu Remembering Childhood (2013), Alexandra Lloyd & Ute Wölfel Childhood in German Film after 1989 (2015). Publications in national languages also exist as evidenced in volumes such as Childhood under Socialism in Bulgarian edited by Ivan Elenkov and Daniela Koleva (Sofia: Centre for Advanced Study/Riva, 2010), In Search of the Lost World of Communism (2005) by Paul Cernat et al., or The Book of Childhoods (2016) edited by Dan Lungu and Amelia Gheorghitṃă in Romanian, but they tend to either “document” or judge the past rather than problematize the socialist times, and in so doing they look like a published extension of the online archives or blogs.
Impressive studies have been dedicated to the “impact of autobiography and subjectivity in the work of scholars across the disciplines” (Freedman & Frey, 2003, p. 1), and important work has been published on the autobiographies by scholars from various fields.
Romania was a socialist state which promoted a communist ideology, and communism was perceived as an ideal stage our country should reach. The very name of the country was changed by Ceauseşcu from People’s Republic to the Socialist Republic of Romania; he also reversed the name of the party from Romanian Workers’ Party to Romanian Communist Party. In employing the terms “socialism” or “communism” throughout the autobiographical essay, I have this understanding in mind, and communism refers to specific ideological instances of my socialist upbringing.
The political propaganda which reached us in school was basically “wooden language” as it was called even then and just discourse. We all knew we had to put up with it: we listened patiently to the school director’s speeches, we recited poems, and so on, as part of school duties.
Due to the strong focus on communist nationalism and the nonaligned foreign policy in Ceauseşcu’s Romania, there was no Sovietization of literary and historical canons in the 1970s and 1980s; thus, the focus was on “national heroes,” with the communist pantheon alongside the early voivodes. The propaganda about the present was too blatant for us to believe, and earlier Romanian or world history was fascinating, irrespective of the wooden language and communist jargon.
The term––a semi-humorous reference to the Hungarian dish “goulash”––refers to a special variety of communism practiced in Hungary from 1962 to 1989, which was characterized by a unusual mix of Marxist ideology and elements of free market economy.
A special type of political beat music focusing on social and political issues.
Kosofsky Sedgwick cautions that our faith in knowledge as exposure may lead us down an epistemological tunnel where any conclusion that is not a rehearsal of the paranoia of oppression seems like a dangerous denial of the gravity of oppression. See “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or You are So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You” in Touching, Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity.
Antohi, S. (2007). Narratives unbound: A brief introduction to post-communist historical studies. In S. Antohi et al. (Eds.), Narratives unbound, historical studies in post-communist Eastern Europe (pp. ix–xxiii). Budapest: Central European University Press.
Bădică, S., & Popescu, I. (Eds.). (2013). Remembering childhood. Special issue of Martor: The Museum of the Romanian Peasant Anthropology Review, 18.
Behar, R. (1994, June 29). Dare we say ‘I’? Bringing the personal into scholarship. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. Bl–2.
Boym, S. (2001). The future of nostalgia. New York: Basic Books.
Burt, E. S. (1982). Poetic conceit: The self-portrait and mirrors of ink. Diacritics, 12(4), 17–38.
Cernat, P., et al. (2001). În căutarea comunismului pierdut [In search of the lost world of communism]. Bucureşti: Paralela 45.
Coe, R. (1984). When the grass was taller: Autobiography and the experience of childhood. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Couser, G. T. (2004). Vulnerable subjects: Ethics and life writing. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Davis, R. G. (2007). Begin here: Reading Asian North American autobiographies of childhood. Manoa: University of Hawaii Press.
Douglas, K. (2010). Contesting childhood: Autobiography, childhood, memory. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Eakin, P. J. (Ed.). (2004). The ethics of life writing. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Elenkov, I., & Koleva, D. (Eds.). (2010). Detstvoto pri sotsializma: Politicheski, institutsionalni i biografichni perspective [Childhood under socialism]. Sofia: Centre for Advanced Study/Riva.
Ellis, C., Tony, E. A., & Arthur, P. B. (2011). Autoethnography: An overview. Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art 10.
Emberley, J. V. (2014). The testimonial uncanny: Indigenous storytelling, knowledge, and reparative practices. Albany: SUNY Press.
Figes, O. (2007). The whisperers: Private life in Stalin’s Russia. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Freedman, D., & Frey, O. (Eds.). (2003). Autobiographical writing across the disciplines. Durham: Duke University Press.
Georgescu, D. (2015). Ceaușescu’s children: The making and unmaking of Romania’s last socialist generation (1965–2010). Doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Griffiths, T. G., & Millei, Z. (Eds.). (2012). Logics of socialist education: Engaging with crisis, insecurity and uncertainty. Dordrecht: Springer.
Griffiths, T. G., & Millei, Z. (Eds.). (2013). Education in/for socialism: Historical, current and future perspectives. Special issue: Globalization, Societies and Education, 11(2), 161–169.
Gullestad, M. (Ed.). (1996). Imagined childhoods: Self and society in autobiographical accounts. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.
Kirschenbaum, L. (2000). Small comrades: Revolutionizing childhood is Russia, 1917–1932. New York: Routledge Falmer.
Lloyd, A., & Wölfel, U. (Eds.). (2015). Childhood in German film after 1989. Special issue: Oxford German Studies, 44(3), 227–235.
Lungu, D., & Gheorghiţă, A. (Eds.). (2016). Cartea copilăriilor [The book of childhoods]. Iaşi: Polirom.
Mead, M. A., & Silova, I. (2013). Literacies of (post)socialist childhood: Alternative readings of socialist upbringings and neoliberal regimes. Globalization, Societies, Education, 11(2), 194–222.
Mihalache, C. (2014). Talking memories of the socialist age: School, childhood regime. In M. Todorova, A. Dimou, & S. Troebst (Eds.), Remembering communism: Private and public recollections of lived experience in Southeast Europe (pp. 251–266). Budapest: CEU Press.
Nancy, J. (1991). The inoperative community. Minneapolis and Oxford: University of Minnesota Press.
Nichols, J. B. D. (2013). The end(s) of community: History, sovereignty, and the question of law. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
Pilbrow, T. (2010). Dignity in transition: History, teachers and the nation state in post-1989 Bulgaria. In M. Todorova & Z. Gille (Eds.), Post-communist nostalgia (pp. 82–96). New York: Berghahn Books.
Silova, I., & Brehm, W. C. (2013). The shifting boundaries of teacher professionalism: Education privatization (s) in the post-socialist education space. In T. Seddon, J. Ozga, & J. Levin (Eds.), Educators, professionalism and politics: Global transitions, national spaces, and professional projects (pp. 55–74). New York: Routledge.
Sedgwick, K. E. (2003). Touching, feeling: Affect, pedagogy, performativity. Durham: Duke University Press.
Smith, R. (1995). Derrida and autobiography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, S., & Watson, J. (2010). Reading autobiography: A guide for interpreting life narratives. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Todorova, M., & Gille, Z. (Eds.). (2010). Post-communist nostalgia. New York: Berghahn Books.
Wambura, F., Hernandez, K.-A. C., & Heewon, C. (2016). Living autoethnography: Connecting life and research. In R. A. Chansky & E. Hipchen (Eds.), The Routledge autobiography studies reader (pp. 240–247). London: Routledge.
Zaborowska, M., Sibelan, F., & Gapova, E. (2004). Introduction: Mapping postsocialist cultural studies. In S. Forrester, M. J. Zaborowska, & E. Gapova (Eds.), Over the wall/after the fall: Post-communist cultures through East-West gaze (pp. 1–36). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Zsadányi, E. (2015). Voicing the subaltern by narrating the communist past through the focalization of a child in Gábor Németh’s Are You a Jew? and Endre Kukorelly’s ‘The Fairy Valley. In D. Pucherová & R. Gáfrik (Eds.), Postcolonial Europe? Essays on post-communist literatures and cultures (pp. 175–197). Leiden-Boston: Brill Rodopi.
The authors are very grateful to the editors whose insightful suggestions have helped strengthen the current chapter. Ioana Luca acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, research grant 104-2410-H-003-038-MY2.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2018 The Author(s)
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
Lenart-Cheng, H., Luca, I. (2018). Memories in Dialogue: Transnational Stories About Socialist Childhoods. In: Silova, I., Piattoeva, N., Millei, Z. (eds) Childhood and Schooling in (Post)Socialist Societies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-62791-5_2
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-319-62790-8
Online ISBN: 978-3-319-62791-5