Scholarly article on topic 'What is a `revolution'?: National commemoration, collective memory and managing authenticity in the representation of a political event'

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Academic research paper on topic "What is a `revolution'?: National commemoration, collective memory and managing authenticity in the representation of a political event"


What is a 'revolution'?: National commemoration, collective memory and managing authenticity in the representation of a political event

Discourse & Society Copyright © 2008 SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore) Vol 19(3): 359-382

CRISTIAN TILEAGÄ 10,177/09OT26508088965


■ ABSTRACT This article examines the production and management of an ideological representation of a specific political 'event': the Romanian 'revolution' of 1989. A critical discursive psychological approach to analyzing political discourse is used to examine commemorative addresses in the Romanian parliament. The analysis explores: (a) issues of agency, entitlement and working with regard to actual or possible alternatives; (b) a pattern of recurring categorical incumbency shifts; (c) managing the authenticity and the true nature of the 'event' through invoking category-bound knowledge and predicates commonsensically attachable to the notion of 'revolution'; and (d) formulating and orienting to the 'events of 1989' as 'revolution' and 'foundational' moment in national history. It is argued that the main ideological function of drawing on such resources is that of framing/ reframing, controlling the various interpretations, public (re)formulations of the Romanian 'revolution', disconnecting it from its controversial particulars and delegitimizing criticism. For a political 'event' to acquire an 'identity', it needs to be cast into a category with associated characteristics or features. The occasioned ideological and political significance of a political 'event' lies also in its consequentiality in and for the social and ideological context in which it is invoked.

KEY WORDS: category memberships, category-bound knowledge, category-bound predicates, collective memory, commemoration, discursive psychology, political event, Romanian revolution


After the fall of communism in eastern Europe, the relevance of history as collective remembering has acquired deeper and wider significance. The revolutionary fervor of 1989 eastern Europe marked the beginning of a process of reckoning with the communist regime and thus attempting to come to terms

with the national past. Issues of collective memory and collective remembering in post-communist eastern Europe have been the subject of numerous analyses including, among others, subjects such as the revival of far-right ideologies from the 1930s (Shafir, 2000), historical revisionism and conspiracy traditions (Byford and Billig, 2001; Voicu, 2000), the crimes, terror and repression of communism (Courtois, 1999), remembrance of victims of the Holocaust (Ioanid, 2000) and the Gulag (Todorov, 1999).

Despite the interest in collective memory and collective remembering from discursive psychologists (Billig, 1999; Middleton and Brown, 2005; Middleton and Edwards, 1990), cultural psychologists (Wertsch, 2002; G.M. White, 1997) and critical discourse analysts (De Cillia et al., 1999; Wodak and De Cillia, 2007), there have been few studies focusing on eastern Europe and the discursive practices that nation-states use to understand history in 'official contexts involving public institutions and texts' (G.M. White, 199 7: 64; but see Ahonen, 1997; Luczynski, 1997; Tulviste and Wertsch, 1994; Wertsch, 2002). Less attention has been paid to eastern Europe, to ideologies of freedom, discourses of social change and local meanings associated with it.

It is fair to say that discursive and cultural psychological investigations of collective memory, in both western and eastern European contexts, have mainly 'approached their subject more as a site of active contestation and negotiation than as a means for accurately representing the past' (Wertsch, 2002: 35). This article situates itself in the context of the study of collective memory in eastern Europe, and illustrates some of the ways in which discourse analytic work might shed light on the workings of collective memory and collective remembering production and dissemination. It starts from the assumption that 'instead of being some sort of steady-made attribute of individuals or groups, collective remembering turns out to involve an array of complex relationships between active agents and the narrative tools they employ' (Wertsch, 2002: 148). It also relies on the idea that 'cultures and groups celebrate their pasts by creating histories which simultaneously involve collective remembering and forgetting' (Billig, 1999: 170), as remembering and forgetting 'are tightly bound together as social practices' (Billig, 1999: 164)

Collective memory, transformation and change in eastern European societies have been usually approached with a concern of mapping and explaining the 'macro' processes of change and transformation. Discourses of 'transition' and change have been placed within diverse explanatory historical and political frameworks, but not necessarily within (political) actors' own categorial constructions of change and collective remembrance of the (national) past.

In eastern Europe, the concept of 'revolution' has been seen as constituting and being constitutive of the 'downfall' of totalitarian regimes and (re)birth of democracy. In theorizing the 'revolutions' in eastern Europe (cf. inter alia Antohi and Tismaneanu, 2000; Banac, 1992; Tismaneanu, 1999) the main concern has been with interpreting the 'great transformation', focusing on social conditions and preconditions of change, causes, meanings and legacies of the 1989 'dramatic' transformation.

My interest in this article is not to offer a critique of the psychological, sociological or political interpretation and theorizing of 'revolution'(s) (with or without reference to eastern Europe) or focusing on the general aspects of 'revolution'(s). What I would like to do instead is to draw attention to the idea that a focus on processes of interpretation and definition of a political 'event' (like 'revolution') moves us away from the perspective of the social and political actors themselves.

The narrative and auto/biographical dimensions of transformation and change have not substantively figured among the main concerns of psychologists, sociologists (of change) or political scientists (but see, e.g., Andrews, 2000; Konopasek and Andrews, 2000; Tismaneanu and Iliescu, 2006).1 Representing a political 'event' is as much an issue for 'members' (social and political actors), as it is for academic discourse. It is suggested that studying the representation of a political 'event' entails examining 'how participants' versions occur as parts of practices, rather than as reflections on them' (Edwards, 1997: 76, italics in original). Examining social and political actors' versions of political 'events' involves the studying of 'the categories that members use by attempting to find them in the activities in which they're employed' (Sacks, 1995: 2 7). It also involves examining participants' versions within a context of controversy, of justification and criticism, of contestation of ideological practices of the past and present, within a framework that takes seriously the idea that our representations and understandings of the past and of events in the past have strategic, political and ideological consequences.

National commemoration

In this article I want to focus on a very specific ideological practice of transition in eastern Europe, that of national commemoration. Although the ritualistic 'Today we commemorate + event' does not seem to be more than a reiteration of similar rituals performed earlier, commemoration can be seen as constantly testifying to the fact that 'the event was a true event, with a true emotional impact and true importance' (Frijda, 1997: 111). It places the event and interpretations of it above that of subjective interpretations, constituting it 'as an objective fact in the world' (Frijda, 199 7: 111). It also 'testifies that it is a true historical event with a social significance and emotional implication of objectively large magnitude' (Frijda, 1997 : 111). At the same time, it constitutes and 'authorizes' a version of the past, as well as a version of events of the past. In terms of national commemoration, mainly coming from individuals with representative duties, one can identify an attempt to put forward a sometimes non-controversial 'representative point of view, acceptable to the nation' (Ensink, 1996: 211).

However, as Turner (2006) has noted, 'commemoration includes public rituals of remembrance and individual acts of recollection', but also 'public debates over the meaning and significance of historical events' (p. 206). As Turner writes, 'the events commemorated in many cases stand for a larger, more

complex and ambiguous set of events making up a decisive period in a nation's history' (p. 208). What seems to be at stake is not only the emotional significance of an event and its true nature, but also the meaning of what is commemorated. The meaning of what is commemorated might be placed within an argumentative context, a context of justification and criticism (Billig, 1996).

In a national commemorative context, an analysis of the struggle over the meaning assigned to past events has to take into account the various discursive processes of representing and engendering an (almost) 'mythical' version of a given political and historical episode of national importance. The perspective espoused in commemorative contexts is not necessarily that of the 'member' with representative duties, but rather the representative point of view, acceptable to the nation and expressed in the name of the nation. For the outsider, the meaning assigned to a particular political 'event', the categorization of the 'event' is not necessarily placed within a context of controversy (Billig, 1996). For example, according to Timothy Garton Ash (1990), 'nobody hesitated to call what happened in Romania a revolution. After all, it really looked like one: angry crowds on the streets, tanks, government buildings in flames, the dictator put up against a wall and shot' (p. 20).

The impact and the significance of the 'revolution(s)' in eastern Europe seems to be intimately linked with commemoration moves (books are edited to re-discuss the phenomenon, presidents, prime ministers, politicians in national parliaments devote their times to the national historical and political significance of such an 'event' or series of 'events'). Following Pierre Nora (1998), one could argue that this process is part of commemorative memory and ritual that 'can be viewed as framing, defining and even establishing a certain tension fundamental to the period in question' (p. 610). As has been the case in western Europe, one is witnessing an unnoticed passage from the 'historical to the remembered and the remembered to the commemorative' (Nora, 1998: 626). In the context of eastern Europe, commemorative discourses are central to discourses of transition. Moreover, in post-communist eastern Europe, 'commemoration is not a mere adjunct to nation-building, but central to it' (Turner, 2006: 208; see Bucur, 2001 for a Romanian example).

The device of commemoration is a 'socially organized means of directing public attention toward an event as somehow focal or formative in collective experience' (G.M. White, 1997: 71). As Pennebaker and Banasik (1997) have noted, 'the creation and maintenance of a collective or historical memory is a dynamic social and psychological process. It involves the ongoing talking and thinking about the event by the affected members of the society or culture' (p. 4). This process is 'critical to the organization of the event in the form of a collective narrative' (Pennebaker and Banasik, 1997: 4). One could argue that this process is also a political and ideological process, which may involve the posing of 'questions about the present, and what the past means in the present' (Hodgkin and Radstone, 2003: 1). It may not simply involve 'talking and thinking' about a particular event, for example, in terms of contradictory accounts of 'what actually happened', but may involve questions such as 'who or what is entitled to speak for that past in the present' (Hodgkin and Radstone,

2003: 1). As such, there may well be 'agreement as to the course of events, but not over how the truth of those events may be most fully represented, or what should be the explanatory and narrative context that would make sense of a given episode' (Hodgkin and Radstone, 2003: 1).

Commemorative political speeches

Images of the past and recollected knowledge of the (events of) past are conveyed and sustained within the ritual performance of commemorative speeches. Commemorative political speeches are seen as being essential in bringing collective norms and values to a wider audience. The focus is on commemorative political speeches, commemorative addresses in particular. Such addresses are usually characterized as representative and epideictic (Ensink, 1996; Ensink and Sauer, 1995; Sauer, 1996; Schaffner, 1996). As critical discourse analysts have shown, commemorative addresses belong to a hybrid genre of the epideictic address, a genre that combines the goals of persuasion and establishing consensus regarding norms and values in society (Sauer, 1996). Very often, these commemorative addresses are representative speeches at the same time - the speakers are mostly persons with representative duties, but not necessarily with political authority - a queen, a president (cf. Sauer, 1996).

One might argue that commemorative addresses do not have any special pragmatic purpose, for, in a way, nothing will be said that has not been said many times before. Nevertheless, they can also be used as opportunities to respond to criticism, to build (rebuild) positions of political legitimacy and representativeness, to 'authorize' a preferred version of specific events and history. The significance of a commemorative address might also depend not only on its own content and design, but also on being an integral part of specific 'dialogical networks' (Leudar and Nekvapil, 2004) and 'community of agreement' (Gergen, 2005) within the public sphere.

The case of Romania

Although this might be seen by some as an unfounded claim, there is no wider consensus as to 'what really happened' in December 1989 and what is the name that should be given to the political 'event' that, first in Timi§oara, and after that in Bucure§ti, opened the way for democracy in Romania. The Romanian 'revolution' has been historically (and still remains) an issue of deep controversy among lay people, scholars and politicians - some authors have called it 'quasirevolution' (Tismaneanu, 199 3) or 'unfinished revolution' (Roper, 2000). Some authors argue that 'the events of the December 1989 revolution left an ideological void, filled previously by the political imaginary of the Ceausescu regime' (Adamson, 2000: 121).

There have been attempts to reconstruct the events (see, e.g., Ratesh, 1991), as there has been an interest on issues around myth-making and the revolution (Deletant, 1994). Researchers have also focused on the impact of the revolution

on Romanian politics and revolutionary changes elsewhere in eastern Europe (Antohi and Tismaneanu, 2000; Tismaneanu, 1999). There has also been a concern with charting the diverse interpretations of the 'revolution' in the public sphere of the 'elites' (Cesereanu, 2004). The main interpretive dimensions that were identified dealt with the idea of a 'pure' revolution, the 'plot' hypothesis (internal/external) and the hybrid (revolution + coup d'etat) (the terms are Cesereanu's).

This article focuses specifically on the Romanian 1989 revolution and its commemoration in the Romanian parliament. This is part of a wider project that focuses on how official and, in most instances, controversial political imaginary, and histories of the communist/post-communist past are produced and accomplished in talk and text, including the various ways in which the 'Revolution of 1989' has been represented by political leaders who have taken part in the events during several relatively recent commemorative addresses in the Romanian parliament. For the purposes of this article, I focus on two commemorative addresses (21 December 2000 and 18 December 2003) of the former Romanian president, Ion Iliescu (head of state at the time).2

Generally acknowledged as the leading political figure of post-1989 Romanian politics, Ion Iliescu was a 'dissident' member of the Communist party who seized the opportunity to assume power in December 1989 and become president of the first Romanian 'democratic' government, emerging, in a rather controversial fashion, from the revolutionary enthusiasm and fervor. His unexpected appearance in a Romanian television studio in December 1989 and the subsequent assuming of leadership of the National Salvation Front are only some aspects that made him a controversial figure of the Romanian 'revolution'. He has been described as being the archetypal communist 'new man' (Cesereanu, 2004). He has been elected President of Romania three times: 1990-92, 1992-6 and 2000-4.

The commemorative address of 2000 followed his re-election as president after facing the extreme right-wing candidate, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, in a second-round of voting, that saw the majority of Romanians voting against the right-wing extremism of Vadim Tudor, though not necessarily for Iliescu. The commemorative address of 2003 was his last public appearance as President of Romania commemorating and arguing for the 'authenticity' of the 'revolution'. In December 2004, he was no longer president as he lost to Traian Basescu in the second-round of presidential elections. Iliescu's case is conspicuous as he was (and still is) a fervent supporter of the idea of 'pure revolution' (Cesereanu, 2004). These commemorative addresses can be considered excellent examples of his discourse on the Romanian 'revolution'. The main aim of these commemorative discourses was to produce a dominant version of the Romanian 'revolution' as 'authentic', foundational and a turning point in the nation's history. As Cesereanu (2004) has noted, his discourse on the 'revolution' can be seen mainly as a reaction to accusations, levelled against him personally and his political team, of subverting and perverting the objectives and the 'real' ethos of the Romanian 'revolution'. One could argue that Iliescu was using his presence

as president in the commemorative sessions of the Romanian parliament as a political instrument, to critique the democratic political opposition. One of Iliescu's main accusations towards the democratic opposition has been that it destabilizes the young Romanian democracy (Cesereanu, 2004).

My main concern is not with the 'facts of the matter' of the revolution (the factuality of an historical representation) or the wider political controversy, but how the 'facts' are described in order to 'authorize' a specific perspective of representing and explaining the 'events'. The argument is not only about 'how a given version is authorized as that version which can be treated by others as what has happened' (Smith, 1978: 33, emphasis in original), but also who is 'allocated the privilege of definition and how other possible versions or sources of possible disjunctive information are ruled out' (Smith, 1978: 33). I am also interested in describing some of the discursive procedures that are being used to ensure the publicly accomplished recognition of the Romanian 'revolution' as revolution, and therefore, as a true and meaningful 'object of commemoration'.

Analytic framework

This article is concerned with the situated discursive accomplishment of democratic consensus and representativeness in an (hegemonic) attempt to produce, reproduce and 'authorize' a worldview that proposes that existing, dominant political and categorial formulations of national history and significant events (the Romanian 'revolution' of 1989) are the most appropriate in understanding the past and the future of the nation. What are the discursive processes involved in the 'authorization' of a preferred version and how may this accomplishment have the ideological function of framing/reframing, controlling the various interpretations, public (categorial) reformulations of events? A critical discursive analysis of political discourse based on ideological and rhetorical analysis (Billig, 2004), discursive psychology (Edwards and Potter, 2001) and membership categorization analysis (Eglin and Hester, 2003; Sacks, 1995) has been used. The main focus is on participants' orientations, members' categories in use, and detailed analysis of descriptions with issues of category work, accountability and entitlement at stake.



Extract 1: 21 December 2000

1 Domnilor preçedinÇi ai Senatului §i Camerei Deputatilor

2 Doamnelor si domnilor senatori si deputati

3 Dragi prieteni din zilele §i noptile RevoluÇiei din decembrie

4 Onorata asistenta

1 Mr President of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies

2 Ladies and gentlemen senators and deputies

3 Dear friends from the days and nights of the December revolution

4 Esteemed audience

Extract 2: 18 December 2003

1 Domnule pre§edinte al Camerei Deputattilor

2 Distinsi membri ai Corpurilor legiuitoare

3 Distintsi membri ai Guvernului

4 Doamnelor si domnilor reprezentantti ai Corpului diplomatic

5 Onorati invitati

6 Dragi prieteni revoluttionari

7 Dragi compatrioti

1 Mr President of the Chamber of Deputies

2 Distinguished members of the legislative bodies

3 Distinguished members of the Government

4 Ladies and gentlemen representatives of diplomatic missions

5 Honourable guests

6 Dear revolutionary friends

7 Dear fellow countrymen

Notice in Extracts 1 and 2 the way in which the speaker's use of formal forms of address indexes his institutional rather his personal identity (cf. Drew and Sorjonen, 1997). He is not only to be seen as acting as incumbent of an institutional role, but also as incumbent of an institutional representative voice. At the same time, he also manages a positioning within the community of 'revolutionaries'.3 The categories 'revolutionary friends' (Extract 2, l. 6) and 'friends from the days and nights of the December revolution' (Extract 1, l. 3) are offered in such a way as to be relevant to the topic.

Note the use of 'friends' in both forms of address. The membership category 'friends' can be said to carry with it a set of category-bound activities and imply a 'locus for rights and obligations' (Lepper, 2000: 196). A particular (political) moral order is thus framed using categories such as 'revolutionary friends' and 'friends from the days and nights of the December revolution'. The 'friendship' is defined through the event, through taking part in the event: friends of the Revolution.

The president is not only speaking from within the national community of which he is the representative, but also from within the community of revolutionaries, the community of the (active) participants in the 'Revolution'. One could argue that this is not a simple rhetorical move of identifying with the audience (Billig, 1996), but a move of managing entitlement issues and framing a particular (political) moral framework in order to construct an ideological representation.

The categories 'revolutionary' and 'revolution' are produced as recognizable and available for category work. These ways of addressing the audience organize the categorial features of the address, and can be seen as preliminaries to the relevance of warrantability, entitlement and accountability issues. The official warrant (President of Romania) is seconded and embedded in a sense

of (personal) solidarity, camaraderie with the community of the participants in the Revolution.

In so doing, the speaker lays claim to 'an epistemological entitlement by virtue of category membership' (Rapley, 1998: 331-2); he is not producing himself as merely a commemorator, a witness, but also as a participant: he is to be seen as claiming co-membership in the category 'revolutionary'. This is a very strong move of warranting an epistemological and speaking entitlement and a preface to offering and authorizing a specific version of the Romanian 'Revolution'.

One can see this as a strategic move of managing category membership that informs argumentative procedures and displays the warrantability (legitimacy) or un-warrantability (illegitimacy) of what is being said within the commemorative context. As discursive psychologists have noted, this is one of the ways for the speaker to perform and manage various kinds of publicly sensitive business, including motives and reasons for (doing) and saying things (cf. Edwards, 1997).

Managing controversy

Extract 3: 18 December 2003

50 Prin profunzimea §i amploarea schimbarilor din decembrie 1989

51 evenimentele respective nu au fost nici lovitura de stat si cu atât mai

52 putin echivalentul român al perestroicii sovietice care nu urmareau o

53 schimbare de sistem ci doar o adaptare a sa.

50 Through the extent and depth of the changes from December 1989

51 the events in question have not been a state coup and even less

52 the Romanian equivalent of the soviet perestroika, which were not after

53 a change of system but only its adaptation.

Extract 4: 18 December 2003

65 Toate fabulatiile politicianiste, cu care ne reîntâlnim §i care se repetâ an

66 de an din 1990 încoace, nu numai ca nu au

67 suport, ci exprimaâ lipsaâ de culturaâ politicaâ în cazul unora

68 precum §i interese obscure în cazul altora, tofi însa

69 ignorând voit realitatile §i faptele.

65 All the politicianist confabulations, which one rehearses and which repeat

66 themselves year after year, from 1990 onwards, not only that they don't

67 stand scrutiny, but they are the expression of a lack of political culture,

68 for some, as well as obscure interests for some others, all of them,

69 nonetheless, ignoring willingly the realities and the facts.

And then he continues: Extract 5: 18 December 2003

70 §i mai absurda este asertiunea conform careia Revolutia s-a sfârçit

71 odata cu fuga lui Ceauçescu, dupa care ar fi urmat confiscarea acesteia.

72 A§adar, Revolutia s-ar fi sfârçit atunci când ea înca nu începuse. Prin

73 Revolutie se intelege un proces radical de schimbari structurale ale

74 societatii. Indiferent de modul in care se savar§et}te, violent sau pattnic,

75 lovituri de palat, de stat sau comploturi de orice fel, pot contribui la

76 declanttarea unei revolutii, dar nu se pot substitui acesteia. O posibila

7 7 lovitura de stat sau complot care sa-l fi anihilat pe Ceauttescu ar fi fost un

78 lucru benefic §i ar fi facut posibila evitarea varsarilor de sange, dar nu

79 am avut aceasta sansa.

70 Even more absurd is the idea that the Revolution finished

71 once Ceauttescu fled, thereafter being confiscated.

72 Thus, the Revolution would have finished before it even started. When one

73 says Revolution one understands a radical process of structural changes

74 in society. Independent of the way in which it takes place, violent or peaceful,

75 coups de palais, coups d'etat or plots of any sort, they can contribute to

76 the beginning of a revolution, but they cannot replace it. A possible coup

77 d'etat or plot that would have annihilated Ceauttescu would have been a good

78 thing and would have made possible avoiding the bloodshed, but we

79 did not have this chance.

In Extracts 3-5, the context is that of justification and criticism (Billig, 1996). It is about what the appropriate claims about the 'event'(s) should be. One strategy used to defend the object of commemoration (and implicitly the act of commemoration) and 'authorizing' a specific version of events is constructing the views of the critics as 'absurd'.

The critical references to the alternative versions of interpretation of the 'event'(s) are brought off as rooted in objective elements such as 'lack of political culture' (Extract 4, l. 67) or 'obscure' political 'interests' (l. 68). The irrationality and absurdity of opposing perspectives is also brought off through recourse to 'historical necessity' and a 'universal' definition of revolution (Extract 5, ll. 72-6). In political language, 'absurdity' might not necessarily be used to protect a view (Antaki, 2003), but to authorize an ideological representation. By pointing to the absurdity of the critics' points of view it invites taking seriously the (ideological) perspective that is put forward.

Alternative labels are mentioned: 'A possible coup d'etat or plot . . .' (Extract 5, ll. 76-7) or 'the Romanian equivalent of the soviet perestroika' (Extract 3, l. 52). On the one hand, there is a sense of directness in criticizing the alternative meanings assigned to the event(s). On the other hand, the denial of alternative labels is not direct:4 A possible coup d'etat or plot that would have annihilated Ceauttescu would have been a good thing and would have made possible avoiding the bloodshed, but we did not have this chance' (Extract 5, ll. 76-9). Note the use of 'would have been a good thing' and 'would have made possible avoiding the bloodshed'. This can be seen as a move of 'making a version factually robust' (Edwards, 2003) by playing off possibility against actuality, as well as appearance against reality (Edwards, 1997). One can see this as part of a concession move (Antaki and Wetherell, 1999). Once the contrasting views are on the record, the speaker can put forward his own (ideological) perspective, 'without being accused of being blindly dogmatic' (Antaki, 2003: 96).

But with 'we did not have this chance', the concession is explained away, ruling out alternative explanations (and implicitly working as if to question alternative

categorizations) within a framework of possibility versus actuality/appearance versus reality. At the same time, this works as a sort of inoculation against stake and interest (Edwards and Potter, 1992).

Another strategy is that of relying on category-bound knowledge and predicates as part of an 'authorization' move (Smith, 19 78). One is provided with a preliminary set of instructions for how to read the phenomenon (cf. Smith, 1978): 'When one says revolution one understands a radical process of structural changes in society.'

'Revolution' is produced as an historical fact, therefore an issue independent of particular networks of agency. It is a sort of theoretical legitimation that provides 'explicit representations of "the way things are"' (Van Leeuwen, 2007: 103). It is nevertheless an argumentative definition of 'revolution' that is mobilized against alternative 'definitions' of the 'event'. The speaker can be likened to the social scientist, who, when offering a 'definition of a commonly used term' does not merely rely on 'an elaboration of internal meanings', but produces it as 'an argument against other definitions' (Billig, 1996: 178).

A specific ideological perspective on the Romanian 'revolution' is legitimized and authorized in terms of ready-made category-bound knowledge. A disembodied definition of 'revolution', appealing to a universal, reasonable audience (Billig, 1996) is presented as common-knowledge, what everyone purportedly knows.

The audience is instructed to 'hear' the definition as the proper definition, as the definition. The procedures used for establishing the definition as 'objectively known' (Smith, 19 78) are not made explicit: it is a 'definition' that relies on category-bound knowledge and predicates. The 'identity' of the 'event' is constructed through a categorial reference, through the invocation of a category with associated characteristics and features. It is also based on the assumption that 'revolution' is the kind of category that 'must be seen to appear in the same way to anyone' (Smith, 1978: 35).

The implication is that critics seem to miss what is obvious to anyone else. This is not a matter of simply knowing 'what a revolution is', but realizing what are the category-bound predicates that can be used to describe a revolution ('change of system', 'radical process of structural changes in society', etc.). The speech appears to be 'designed with regard to such matters' (Edwards, 1997: 98, italics in original).

Predicates such as 'change of system' (Extract 3, l. 53) and 'radical process of structural changes' (Extract 5, l. 73) come from a collection of terms that are specifically and commonly used to characterize a 'revolution' (this is also evident in the academic literature on 'revolutions'; see Calvert, 1990, for example) so as to say that a 'revolution' is what it is usually taken to be. For example, according to Calvert and theoreticians of 'revolution', 'if nothing changes then it is not a revolution' (Calvert, 1990: 16). For political actors, as well as for academics, this is not a simple issue of attribution preceding evidence: you categorize the event and that provides for how you interpret it (describe it). It is rather a case for: (a) if the category is known, then its characteristics and features can be inferred; and (b) if the characteristics and features are known, then the category can be inferred. And this can be said to be an issue that relies on the logic of membership

categorization analysis and the implicative relationship of category-bound knowledge and predicates and producing 'identity' (Eglin and Hester, 2003; Sacks, 1995).

The 'revolution' is 'objectivated, represented as a generalized and intangible "phenomenon" rather than as an action by specific actors' (Van Leeuwen, 1995: 82). It comes to signify the natural process of historical change. The 'revolution' is an 'unexamined and unexaminable given' (Van Leeuwen, 1995: 82). One can discern a dilemma of agentialization/de-agentialization (Van Leeuwen, 1995). On the one hand, the 'revolution' is represented as being brought about by people claiming membership in the category 'revolutionary', on the other hand, it is represented as 'brought about . . . in ways impermeable to human agency' (Van Leeuwen, 1995: 96). The speaker seems to act as the historian, political scientist, sociologist of change for which 'language can serve as a perfectly transparent medium of representation . . . if one can only find the right language for describing events, the meaning of the events will display itself to consciousness' (H. White, 19 78: 130, italics in original).

Managing objectivity and authenticity

Consider the following examples: Extract 6: 21 December 2000

40 . . . deformarea adevarurilor cu privire la revoluttie

41 §i a adevarului insutti care este revoluttia a constituit o buna bucata

42 de vreme apanajul celor care, probabil, tocmai au absentat de la un

43 asemenea crucial eveniment ori si-au facut calcule de profit politic §i social

44 de pe urma lui. Trebuie sa spun ca nicaieri in lume un asemenea fenomen,

45 cu determinari complexe §i obiective, cum este revoluttia, nu a mai fost

46 abordat in termeni discriminatori, de desconsiderare ori supus unui

47 tratament fals justitiar.

40 . . . the deformation of the truths regarding the revolution

41 and of the truth in itself that is the revolution has constituted for a good

42 while the appendage of those who, probably, have not been present in this

43 sort of crucial event or have made calculations of political and social profit.

44 I have to say that nowhere in the world such a phenomenon,

45 with complex and objective determinations, such as the revolution, has been

46 talked about in discriminatory terms, of inconsideration or subjected to

47 a false justiciary treatment

Extract 7: 21 December 2000

60 Ca unul care, asemenea multora dintre cei prezentti sau nu

61 la aceasta solemnitate, am participat direct la evenimente §i am dettinut un

62 anume rol, am respins §i resping categoric astfel de

63 judecatti, pe care nu le socotesc altceva decat ca pe o incercare de fraudare a

64 istoriei, a adevarului cu privire la valoarea si fortta idealurilor

65 revoluttiei §i, nu in ultimul rand, ca o tentativa de impiedicare a

66 implinirii lor!

60 As one of those who, like so many of those present or not present

61 at this solemn meeting, I have directly participated in the events and had a

62 certain role, I have been opposing and still categorically opposing such

63 comments, that are nothing other than an attempt to fraud

64 history, the truth regarding the values and the force of the ideals of the

65 revolution, and last, but not least, an attempt to stop

66 their fulfillment!

In Extracts 6 and 7 one can notice a classic example of establishing authority through using personal experience. This move is accompanied by a direct reference to the actions of the critics: their 'attempt' to 'fraud history' (Extract 7, ll. 63-4), 'the truth regarding the values and the force of the ideals of the revolution' (ll. 64-5) and 'to stop their fulfillment!' (ll. 65-6). In the context of talking about 'revolution' they might even be categorized as counterrevolutionaries!

This is a 'warranting voice' (Gergen, 1989) that speaks from within the community of revolutionaries and thereby explicitly claims not only certain knowledge entitlements, but also certain criticism entitlements. Although not explicitly used, the category 'revolutionary' is taken for granted, it is not problematic. What is made problematic are the 'critics' who, according to the speaker, are not in a position to claim membership in such a category.

One can notice a shift from the institutional role and representative voice to the personal, biographical element, of not only witnessing the event, but having directly participated and having 'had a certain role': a sort of autobiographical passage that has the effect of establishing authority within a more general move of identifying with the community of the 'revolutionaries'. One can also notice a theme of vested stake and interest on the part of the critics ('calculations of political and social profit') (Extract 6, l. 43).

Not taking part seems to equal not knowing. Taking part is established as the sine qua non reason for being entitled to talk about the 'event'. What I would like to argue is that this is not only a simple case of claiming 'I know 'cos I was there' (Tusting et al., 2002) to mount an argument against the 'critics', but also a case of taking into account how the speaker produces himself as an incumbent of an omnirelevant category: 'revolutionary'. The speaker establishes a relationship to the 'event' by virtue of producing himself as an incumbent of a specific category (Eglin and Hester, 2003).

There is a sense that it is important to make sure that the account given would not only be simply considered true and authentic in itself, but would be held in the collective memory of the nation as true and authentic. One gets a sense that the categorial framework of 'revolution' needs to be produced as 'something which endures, and is not tied to a particular time and place' (Davis, 1992: 216).

In Extract (6), through the use of an extreme case formulation, the 'hearably absurd' (Antaki, 2003) nature of critics' claims is constructed: 'nowhere in the world such a phenomenon, with complex and objective determinations, as the revolution, has been talked about in discriminatory terms, of inconsideration or subjected to a false justiciary treatment' (Extract 6, l. 44-7). Denying 'the

truth in itself that is the revolution' (l. 41) is again produced as 'hearably absurd'. This is a move of producing the Romanian 'revolution' as a non-controversial 'event' (implicitly, the category 'revolution' is produced as belonging to a non-controversial categorial realm), not anchored in specific historical/political particularities. The sense of objectivity and authenticity is not only achieved through reference to the national community, but also a wider, universal 'community of agreement' (Gergen, 2005: 108).

Extract 8: 18 December 2003

80 Revolutia romana a fost, deci, opera poporului roman,

81 ea ii aparttine poporului roman. Revolutia romana nu a fost

82 un act artificial, gandit in nu §tiu ce birouri, de nu stiu ce

83 organizattii subversive. Revoluttia romana, ca toate revoluttiile

84 in general, ca §i in toate celelalte tari, in 1989, a fost

85 rezultatul unei crize profunde, in care a intrat vechiul sistem, si al

86 imposibilitattii guvernanttilor de a mai oferi solutii realiste §i acceptabile

87 problemelor cu care se confrunta societatea romaneasca. De aceea am

88 afirmat §i afirm cu tarie faptul ca Revolutia romana este un moment de

89 cotitura in istoria noastra nattionala, care a schimbat fizionomia societattii

90 romanettti, care a deschis calea unor transformari profunde in plan politic,

91 economic §i social. Asa ceva se infaptuie§te sau nu, nu se poate

92 nici confisca, nici fura. Revolutia romana a fost,

9 3 totodata, cea mai radicala din intreg spattiul fost "socialist" 94 din Europa.

80 So, the Romanian revolution was the achievement of the Romanian

81 people, it belongs to the Romanian people. The Romanian revolution

82 has not been an artificial act, decided in I don't know what offices, by I don't

83 know what subversive organisation. The Romanian revolution, like all

84 revolutions in general, like in all other countries, in 1989, has been the

85 result of a profound crisis of the old system and the

86 impossibility of government to offer realist and acceptable solutions

87 to the problems that the Romanian society was facing. That's why I have

88 said and emphasise again that the Romanian revolution is a cornerstone in

89 our national history, which has changed the physiognomy of the Romanian

90 society, which opened the way for profound political, economical and social

91 transformations. Something like this is either accomplished or is not, it can

92 be neither confiscated nor stolen. The Romanian revolution has been,

93 at the same time, the most radical in the formerly "socialist" space of

94 Europe.

The building up of the authenticity and the true nature of the events is taken further in Extract (8). Issues of stake, interest and entitlement in representing the 'event' are countered with a version of the 'event' as the 'achievement' of the action of the 'people', and therefore, 'belonging to' the 'people': Achievement of the Romanian people', 'it belongs to the Romanian people' (ll. 80-81).

The previously identified dilemma of agentialization/de-agentialization is still intact. The Romanian 'revolution' is said to be the achievement of the 'Romanian people', but also the result of the 'profound crisis of the old system' (l. 85). There

is still a strong sense that although the 'revolution' 'belongs to the Romanian people', it is still to be seen as a 'result of an irresistible force rather than the outcome of specific deeds and events' (Arendt, 1965: 255-6). This is another opportunity for the speaker to formulate and orient (to) the 'events', recognizable and accountable as 'revolution': 'Like all revolutions in general, like in all other countries in 1989' it [the Romanian revolution] was the result of 'a profound crisis of the old system and the impossibility of government to offer realist and acceptable solutions to the problems that the Romanian society was facing' (ll. 83-7). What his description provides is that, in the last analysis, the Romanian 'revolution' is like the other 'revolutions of 1989'. The Romanian 'revolution' is placed within the historical 'order' and logic of the 1989 revolutions.

An attempt at argumentative closure is intercalated between two comments on the Romanian revolution: 'something like this is either accomplished or is not, it can be neither confiscated nor stolen' (ll. 91-2). The earlier apparent reasonableness of taking into account alternative political labels for the 'event' is turned into a peremptory assertion that goes against the various alternative versions that are said to be implicating vested interest, 'motive and intention' (Edwards, 1997: 98).

Although previously placed within the realm of argument and argumentative meaning, the specific version of events that is being produced is said to lie beyond argument. Whatever happened in December 1989 (the 'revolution') cannot be anything other than what is predicated by the speaker. Its 'rhetorical force is to claim for one's current argument the status of common knowledge, and thus render it hard to deny' (Edwards, 199 7: 256, italics in original). The speaker is not only telling what the Romanian 'revolution' is, but what it should be taken as.

The 'exceptionality' of the Romanian revolution is emphasized. It is said to be the 'the most radical in the formerly socialist space of Europe' (ll. 93-4). The Romanian 'revolution' does not constitute thus a disconfirmation of the (historical) pattern of 'revolutions'; instead its special characteristics help confirm the genuineness of the historical pattern of revolutions in eastern Europe.

Extract 9: 21 December 2000

90 Daca, asa cum am mai avut prilejul sa arat, o revolutie schimba radical

91 sistemul politic ti social si consacra ireversibilitatea

9 2 schimbarilor fundamentale din societate, este de la sine inteles ca ea nu 9 3 rezolva de la bun inceput ti in mod definitiv toate problemele. Ea deschide 94 calea evolutiei ti asigura premisele solutionarii lor.

90 If, as I had the opportunity to show, a revolution changes radically

91 the political and social system and consecrates the irreversibility of

92 fundamental changes in society, it goes by itself that it does not

93 resolve from the very beginning and definitively all the problems. It opens

94 the way to evolution and ensures the premises for offering solutions.

As in the previous account, the 'event' is constructed as following a normative moral and historical order, that of 'revolutions'. Again, the representation of the 'event' is produced and controlled via its categorial reference. There is a shift from

'what a revolution is' to 'what a revolution does': 'changes radically the political and social system and consecrates the irreversibility of fundamental changes in society' (ll. 90-92), 'opens the way to evolution and ensures the premises for offering solutions' (ll. 93-4). This shift is nevertheless based on the same invocation of category-bound knowledge and predicates.

The comments are introduced with the use of an 'if-then' structure (Edwards, 199 7). This is used as a discursive resource for telling an ideological story of 'what is the case'. And 'what is the case' is predicated on the 'definition' of 'what a revolution does' offered by the speaker. 'It goes by itself' (l. 92) nicely prefaces the comments on changes by reinforcing the previously offered example of ready-made category-bound knowledge.

Categorial reference to 'what a revolution does' is used to respond to an implicit criticism about changes in society. 'What a revolution does' is centred on the issue of change: and not any kind of change (radical and fundamental changes) and points to how the revolution 'consecrates' the 'irreversibility of fundamental changes in society'. There is still a sense of the previously mentioned dilemma of agentialization/de-agentialization: changes are not brought about, but are 'consecrated' by the 'revolution'. As in the previous examples, one can see how the 'event' is descriptively produced as 'following . . . some normative or expected order' (Edwards, 199 7: 144). The 'event' does not only 'follow' a normative order of 'revolutions', but also a normative order of fundamental 'change'. The normative 'identity' of the 'revolution' is produced and predicated on the invocation of category-bound predicates such as 'fundamental' or 'radical' changes.

This account works to establishing that this is how these things called 'revolutions' happen and must happen - very similar move to the essentialist view in Extract 8 - and what are their consequences. Again, this provides for 'both the explanation of why things have happened and the determination of their appearance' (Iniguez et al., 199 7: 242).

The nation and the 'revolution'

Not only is the 'revolution' in Romania constructed by exploiting category-bound knowledge and presented as part of a general historical pattern, but also as a foundational moment and principle in national history. As such, to commemorate the 'revolution' is to narrate the nation and its future.

Extract 10: 21 December 2000

80 Nu pentru saracie, nu pentru umilintta sau jaf si coruptie

81 s-a murit in revolutie, ci pentru o viatta demna, normala, pentru o

82 societate cu adevarat democratica si un viitor care sa aduca intr-adevar

83 prosperitatea. Ca act fondator al unei noi Romanii, revolutia a fost un act

84 al responsabilitattii supreme. Cauzele §i sentimentele acestei

85 responsabilitatti trebuie sa ne domine pe totti.

80 It is not for poverty, nor for humiliation or organized theft and corruption

81 that one has died in the revolution, but for a decent, normal life, for a

82 truly democratic society and a future that should undoubtedly bring

83 prosperity. As a foundational act of a new Romania, the revolution was an

84 act of supreme responsibility. The causes and the sentiment of this

85 responsibility have to dominate us all

Extract 11: 18 December 2003

120 Este important sa tragem toate concluziile care se impun din

121 judecata la care ne supune permanent natiunea romana, sa ne orientam

122 toate actiunile politice in functie de acest reper care inseamna valorile,

123 principiile si obiectivele Revolutiei romane §i sa raspundem

124 nevoilor §i a§teptarilor cetatenilor in slujba carora

125 ne aflam toti cei ale§i.

120 It is important that we draw all the conclusions that stem from the

121 incessant judgment of the Romanian nation, it is important that we orient

122 all our political actions in relation to this yardstick which are the values,

123 the principles and the objectives of the Romanian revolution and that we

124 respond to the needs and expectations of the citizens

125 which we, all elected, serve

In Extract 10, one can see an instance of a particularized account of the Romanian 'revolution'. It seems to rely on a very Arendtian philosophy that contends that what is 'crucial . . . to any understanding of revolutions in the modern age is that the idea of freedom and the experience of a new beginning should coincide' (Arendt, 1965: 29). There is a sense that the 'event' is described as embodying 'enduring truths' and values, and that 'it seems sensible . . . [these] should not be lost in the past' (Davis, 1992: 215).

The category 'revolution' is made to work by constituting, through its situated use, a 'collectivity' morally organized with respect to specific ideas, values and commitments that could be said to be 'revolutionary' (freedom, social justice) (Jayyusi, 1984). The ascribed 'foundational' character of the 'revolution' constitutes a moral framework of 'national responsibility' and 'togetherness' (Extracts 10 and 11) within reference to a time of hope in a future 'that should undoubtedly bring prosperity' (Extract 10, ll. 82-3). The 'values, the principles and the objectives of the Romanian revolution' (Extract 11, ll. 122-3) are the ones that should guide those of the Romanian nation. In a move of re-contextualization, the moral framework is linked to the sacrifice of those who 'died in revolution' (Extract 10, l. 81). This could also be read as another attempt to authorize the trueness and authenticity of the Romanian 'revolution' (there is an implied sense that one would not be entitled to call it a 'revolution' if the 'present' did not live up to the expectations of the 'foundational' moment).

Note the strategic use of a togetherness repertoire in Extracts 10 and 11. This could be seen as a sort of wider mobilization discourse, one that goes beyond parliamentary acceptance (Rapley, 1998). What this does, is to establish the reasonableness of the (representative) position - that is, thinking about the Romanian 'revolution' from a particular perspective - and also establishing the identity of the reasonable politician.

There is a sense that being the 'commemorator', witness of and active participant in the commemorated 'event', and reasonable politician are isomorphic (cf. Rapley, 1998). What this isomorphism allows is producing a togetherness and political consensus repertoire that entails going beyond criticism and respond-ing 'to the needs and expectations of the citizens which we, all elected, serve' (Extract 11, ll. 124-5). This is a voice speaking from within the universal community of the 'reasonable' politician(s) serving the interests of the country. Consider Extract (12).

Extract 12: 18 December 2003

12 7 Trecutul §i prezentul se impletesc pentru a prefigura viitorul.

128 Revolutia romana a fost evenimentul care a declan§at acele

129 transformari profunde §i de substantta, care ne permit sa afirmam, acum,

130 ca viitorul Romaniei nu poate fi imaginat in afara viitorului Europei

131 unite. Pana sa ne atingem obiectivul strategic al aderarii la Uniunea

132 Europeana, ne-a mai ramas de parcurs un drum scurt, dar extrem de

133 dificil §i de solicitant pentru totti romanii, indiferent de pozittia lor in

134 societate.

135 De aceea consider ca §i in acest moment, in care cinstim memoria

136 eroilor Revolutiei romane, trebuie sa privim cu luciditate la ceea ce am

13 7 realizat, dar mai ales la ceea ce nu am realizat §i mai avem de

facut pentru a ne atinge ttelurile.

12 7 The past and the present interweave to prefigure the future.

128 The Romanian revolution was the event which started those

129 profound and substantial transformations which allow us to say, now,

130 that the future of Romania cannot be imagined outside the future of a

131 united Europe. We have a short way to go until we reach our strategic

132 goal to join the European Union, but one extremely difficult

133 and demanding for all Romanians, no matter of their position in society.

134 That is why I consider that in this moment, when we pay tribute to the

135 heroes of the Romanian revolution, we have to lucidly consider what we

136 have achieved, but mostly what we have not achieved and what we have

13 7 to do to attain our goals

18 Dec 2003

In Extract (12) one gets a clear sense that the time of transformations and change has been a progressive time. The 'foundational' time of the 'revolution' allows for considering achievements and preparing the future of the nation. This vision of progressive time is not divorced from commemorative time and context. On the contrary, the time of commemoration is the time for taking all those issues seriously: 'in this moment, when we pay tribute to the heroes of the Romanian revolution, we have to lucidly consider what we have achieved, but mostly what we have not achieved and what we have to do to attain our goals' (ll. 134-7).

The Romanian 'revolution' is constituted as an 'event' that embodies and heralds the values and goals that the nation aspires to. The 'revolution' is said to be at the same time the foundation, but also part and parcel of the political project of the nation. The 'revolution' is constitutive of 'projecting the future' concerning both 'future action and future reality' (Dunmire, 2005: 484).


In this article I have examined issues around national commemoration, collective memory, managing authenticity and category memberships in the representation of a specific political 'event': the Romanian 'revolution' of 1989. As this article has hopefully shown, the Romanian 'revolution' has come to be invested with a category-bound, 'discursively constituted' reality (Smith, 1999).

The construction of an 'ideological argument through a dramaturgy of objective description' (Edelman, 1988: 115) has been explored. There has been a focus on issues of agency, entitlement and working with regard to actual or possible alternatives (Edwards, 1997), categorical incumbency shifts, managing the authenticity and the true nature of the 'event' through invoking category-bound knowledge and predicates commonsensically attachable to the notion of 'revolution', formulating and orienting to the 'events of 1989' as recognizable and accountable as 'revolution' and 'foundational' moment in national history.

Although this kind of discourse seems explanatory, it is ideological in that it, paradoxically, 'refuses explanations' (Barthes, 1993[1957]: 142). In this way, the order of commemoration and its 'object' are seen as 'sufficient or ineffable' (Barthes, 1993[1957]: 142). The notion of 'revolution' is given a 'clarity which is not that of an explanation but that of a statement of fact' (Barthes, 1993[1957]: 143). Paraphrasing Barthes, if one states the fact of the (Romanian) 'revolution' 'without explaining it', one is 'very near to finding that it is natural and goes without saying' (p. 143, italics in original).5

It is usually believed that the main objective of commemoration involves the construction of a 'unitary and coherent version of the past' (Misztal, 2003: 127). As Wertsch (2002: 125) has argued, a 'dogmatic commitment to one - and only one - account of the past is a hallmark of collective memory, as opposed to history'. But nonetheless, there is a struggle over what is the nature of the 'object of commemoration' and the meaning that is ascribed to it for and in the name of the 'nation' and collective memory.

The commemorative ritual is part and parcel of instituting a political and historical 'reality'. As Billig (1999) contends, 'memory-stories . . . can be suspected for being partial in their patterns of inclusion and omission', but 'it is not so much that the past is censored, but that the past is being recruited, indeed created, to serve present purposes' (p. 170). The meaning and emotional aspect of commemoration can be easily subverted. In the current instance, this is to be seen in the context of an attempt by dominant, representative political actors 'to project their assumptions and visions [of the past] and of the future as universal and grounded in common sense' (Dunmire, 2005: 482). In a context of controversy, justification and criticism over the meaning that is to be assigned to a political 'event' of national importance, there is nevertheless a sense that there might be a 'danger of the reinterpretation of critical political events' (Teitel, 2000: 105). This could be seen as becoming more of a problem, as the 'events' are seen as constitutional, foundational of the (new) democracy and nation. There is a strong sense in these accounts that the identity of the Romanian 'revolution' is based on a historical and political 'view for all time'. But, as Teitel (2000) has

argued, 'the attempt to entrench an identity based on a particular historical view for all time is itself an illiberal vision - no choice remains but plurality of narratives, instability and political dialectic' (p. 117).

The image of the 'event' is placed in a signifying, semiotic chain that generates determinate meaning and creates a specific 'representation'. From a discursive social psychological perspective, the discursive power of a categorial conceptualization of an 'event' ties together a moment of (arbitrary) closure (Eagleton, 1991) and secures the meaning, in a normative and prescriptive way, involving 'avoidance of further memory-work, which might disturb the sovereignty of the accepted account of the past' (Billig, 1999: 170-1).

The ordinariness of the Romanian 'revolution' as 'revolution' is decreed by managing the designed accountability and its publicly accomplished recognition. The 'event' is constructed as following a normative moral and (historical) order, that of 'revolutions'. But one should not stop at this observation. There is a sense of a clear political and ideological concern in the way that the 'event' is represented. An ideological dimension is framed when it is implied that when one contests the label 'revolution', one is also contesting the predicates, values, life-forms uniquely bound to this category (Leudar and Nekvapil, 1998).

The significance of this particular version of the Romanian 'revolution' lies in it being produced via a categorial reference in political discourse. The political 'event' that is being commemorated acquires an 'identity' as it is cast into a category with associated characteristics or features. The occasioned ideological and political significance of a political 'event' having an 'identity' lies also in its consequentiality in and for the social and ideological context in which it is invoked. This version is made co-substantial with the official collective memory around the 'events of 1989'. At the same time, the version offered is factually and rhetorically robust, as it subverts 'what might be the case', 'in favour of a purportedly more insightful and adequate analysis' (Edwards, 1997: 248).6

The original events 'are lifted out of their local historical contexts and reshaped to the relevancies established' (Smith, 1999: 185) for a commemorative (political) discourse. These established relevancies of a commemorative political discourse allow for the fulfilment of the ideological function of framing/re-framing, controlling the various interpretations, public (re)formulations of the 'event' (the Romanian 'revolution'), disconnecting the 'revolution' from its controversial particulars, delegitimizing criticism, and alternative meanings attached to it.

1. See also attempts to consider the voice of the social and political actor in stories of social change in social movements research (Davis, 2002; Polletta, 1998a, 1998b; see also Tilly, 2002).

2. The analysis has been based on transcripts of the commemorative addresses retrieved from the Romanian parliament's website at steno.home

3. Taking account of the commemorative context, it might seem natural to acknowledge the 'revolutionaries' as part of the audience. This may even be seen as a legitimate move, as no ordinary people, but 'revolutionaries' are remembered on this occasion.

4. The account is carefully constructed, as the critics are not directly mentioned, as part of a move of de-personalizing of the referent (Montero and Rodriguez-Mora, 1998: 94).

5. This is a similar process as the one identified by Barthes (1993[1957]: 143) when writing about 'myth'. One could argue that 'passing from history to nature', this specific representation of the Romanian 'revolution' 'abolishes the complexity of human acts . . . gives them the simplicity of essences, it does away with all dialectics, with any going back beyond what is immediately visible, it organizes a world which is without depth, a world wide open and wallowing in the evident, it establishes a blissful clarity: things appear to mean something by themselves'.

6. One may also see this as a process of production of an 'empty signifier' that unifies 'a certain politico-ideological field' (cf. Laclau, 1993) of commemoration and public discourse, an attempt at constructing and legitimating post-communist democracy, representativeness, collective memory as integral part of a 'contested discursive terrain of political competition' (Adamson, 2000: 120).


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CRISTIAN TILEAGA is Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of East London. His main research interests are in critical social psychology of racism, political discourse analysis, ideological justifications of polity and history. His current research explores how the official political imaginary and histories of the (Romanian) communist/ post-communist past are constructed in talk and text. ADDRESS: School of Psychology, University of East London, Romford Road, London, E15 4LZ, UK. [email:]