Scholarly article on topic 'Constructing and De-constructing Cultural Identity in the Contemporary European Paradigm – The Romanian Example and its Eurocentric Dilemmas'

Constructing and De-constructing Cultural Identity in the Contemporary European Paradigm – The Romanian Example and its Eurocentric Dilemmas Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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{"De-constructing cultural identity" / "European paradigm" / "Eurocentric dilemmas" / "Romanian culture" / "compensatory “ideo-graphy”"}

Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Nicoleta Ifrim

Abstract The active participation of ex-communist literatures and their pro-European pact implies, within this differentiating cultural practice, the conscious acceptance of the communist ideological delay, but also its overcoming by the retrieval of the previous pro-European attitudes, together with the contemporary ones. The tendency towards more fluid geo-spatial frontiers by starting a trans-national dialogue, as well as the cultural diachronic structure specific to each South-eastern collective is what maintains, by accepting the difference, an identity which is constantly dynamic and inter-reflexive and which constantly reinvents itself within the European paradigm. The break with the communist dystopia gives legitimacy, within Eastern European communities, to a tendency towards synchronicity with the European cultural model, while the latter itself is supported by a mixture of differentiating practices, by the blend of identity features in a Europe that promotes not cultural uniformization, but the explosive diagonal inter-relatedness based on supra-ethnic criteria. The Romanian critical discourse, as enhanced by the literary revues, is torn apart between the “autonomist” drive and the “revisionist” one, the latter legitimising sometimes a compensatory auto-fiction mirroring different types of Self-centrism.

Academic research paper on topic "Constructing and De-constructing Cultural Identity in the Contemporary European Paradigm – The Romanian Example and its Eurocentric Dilemmas"

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Procedía

Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 63 (2012) 29 - 34

The 4th Edition of the International Conference: Paradigms of the Ideological Discourse 2012

Constructing and De-constructing Cultural Identity in the Contemporary European Paradigm - The Romanian Example and

its Eurocentric Dilemmas

The active participation of ex-communist literatures and their pro-European pact implies, within this differentiating cultural practice, the conscious acceptance of the communist ideological delay, but also its overcoming by the retrieval of the previous pro-European attitudes, together with the contemporary ones. The tendency towards more fluid geo-spatial frontiers by starting a trans-national dialogue, as well as the cultural diachronic structure specific to each South-eastern collective is what maintains, by accepting the difference, an identity which is constantly dynamic and inter-reflexive and which constantly reinvents itself within the European paradigm. The break with the communist dystopia gives legitimacy, within Eastern European communities, to a tendency towards synchronicity with the European cultural model, while the latter itself is supported by a mixture of differentiating practices, by the blend of identity features in a Europe that promotes not cultural uniformization, but the explosive diagonal inter-relatedness based on supra-ethnic criteria. The Romanian critical discourse, as enhanced by the literary revues, is torn apart between the "autonomist" drive and the "revisionist" one, the latter legitimising sometimes a compensatory auto-fiction mirroring different types of Self-centrism.

© 2012 The Authors.PublishedbyElsevier Ltd.Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Dunarea de Jos UniversityofGalati

Keywords: De-constructing cultural identity, European paradigm, Eurocentric dilemmas, Romanian culture, compensatory "ideo-graphy"

1. Re-inventing the Self and the Memory of the "Ideographic" Identity. Theoretical Aspects Within the post-totalitarian cultures, once the politically dominant regimes have fallen apart, the Eurocentric drive generates a wide range of polyphonic critical discourses voicing out the right of being recognized for the eastern cultures still carrying the Periphery stigmata. The ex-Soviet countries can now testify their own traumatic experience by

* Nicoleta Ifrim, Tel.: +40 741350935. E-mail address: nicodasca@yahoo.com

Nicoleta Ifrim a *

Senior Lecturer, PhD, "Dunärea de Jos " University of Galati, Romania

Abstract

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Dunarea de Jos University of Galati doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.10.006

aesthetically reviving their literatures adherent to the multicultural stage. Thus, within the limits of the integrationist pact, the critical discourse turns into a legitimizing strategy, (in)validating the writings of the politically-oppressive age; at the same time, it brings forth the controversial issue of the ongoing relation between "historical memory" (subjecting the ego as social construct) and "Self-centric memory" as the critic places himself at the crossroads of the bipolar interconnected dyad: the "Great History" and the "History of the Self' -the direct effect of this type of inter-action is viewing the critical discourse as a double-faced narrated scenario: on the one hand, it legitimizes the "canonical" literary values in its portrayal of the "national culture" relevant for the recognition process (Charles Taylor); on the other, it grasps the identity-oriented construct of the Self, in other words, it mirrors the internal facets of the critic in his identity quest for "personal mythology". At this second level of actualization, the critic re-writes his personal "historical identification" by re-reading the "Great History" and the works of the totalitarian epoch, thus defining his own "ideographic" identity - a Self-defining mirror. Or, in Abraham Frassen's words: "Entre identité assignée et identité souhaitée, incorporation d'une histoire sociale et familiale et projection temporelle, transaction sociale et transaction biographique, c'est au point de convergence d'une pluralité de déterminations et d'orientations que les sujets construisent, dans leur rapport aux autres autant que dans leur rapport à soi, leur identité" [1]. The critical options and the interpretative personal mechanisms make the critic operate his selection of writings, crediting/discrediting them according to an "internalized" system of values, following the three stages of constructing the "accumulative identity" Kaufmann speaks about: "l.L'identité est une construction subjective ; 2. Elle ne peut cependant ignorer les 'porte-identité', la réalité concrète de l'individu ou du groupe, matière première incontournable de l'identification ; 3. Ce travail de malaxage par le sujet se mène sous le regard d'autrui, qui infirme ou certifie les identités proposées" [2]. From the point of view of cultural sociology mixed with elements belonging to social psychology, the critic elaborates his discourse-mediated identity firstly by joining to a public role "dressing up" his social group of origin - the public masks deliberately negotiate identitary meaning as "la prise en compte des rôles a cet avantage immédiat d'introduire une type de cadre de socialisation très proche des acteurs, donc de pouvoir mettre aisément en évidence les articulations entre l'intériorité de l'individu et les extériorités sociales qu'il rencontre" [3]. Secondly, the transactional process mediating between the "normes associés aux rôles" (interiorised as habitus, in Bourdieu's teminology) and "la mémoire personnelle des reflets enregistrée sous forme de self-schemas" [4] labels the critic's discourse as "juncture narrative" juxtaposing the external historical patterns and the "personal memory" within the identity-generating matrix. Now, "les soi possibles" (Markus, Nurius - Cf. Kaufmann, 2004) emerge beyond the meta-narrative surface, re-inventing the critical Self with each an every interpretative reference to the writers who have made their own specific pact to the History - the critical act turns into "l'histoire de soi que chacun se raconte" [5], a second grade identity scenario mirroring the critic's inner profile facing the "Great History" through the literary works he analyses. By referring to Ricœur triad, the Self-reflexive critical discourse belongs to the mimesis III level of "l'économie d'ensemble" (Marc Augé): "mimésis I, c'est, pour ainsi dire, une 'auto-mimésis', les diverses médiations symboliques qui rendent, à l'intérieur d'une monde donné, l'action possible et pensable ; mimésis II, c'est le monde de la mise en intrigue et en récit, les 'configurations narratives' qui mettent le monde en récits historiques ou en récits de fiction ; mimésis III, c'est 'l'interaction du monde du texte et du monde de l'auditeur ou du lecteur' " [6]. The "mise en critique" becomes a meta-narrative "mise en intrigue" (Ricœur) within which the critic portrays his identity profile by reference to the literary works he analyses, generating the reflexive Self paradigm defining both his critical options as well as the traits of his identity. "La multiplicité contradictoire du social" [7] as literarily-mediated fiction forces the critic to make up a (non)identification scenario mirroring his ideo-graphic identity so the "personal ideology" - "la grande histoire du soi" - "prend place dans des temps particuliers, où ego se retire de l'action ordinaire, pour s'évader dans une sorte de mise en scène romanesque ou de rêverie contemplative à propos de lui-même" [8].

2. The "Pathology" of the Self and the Romanian "East-ethical" Criticism. In its attempt to re-evaluate the literature of the totalitarian epoch, the post-December revisionist tendency entails a reductive approach

anchored in the morally-oriented critical praxis, "aesthetically" confirming the "non-collaborationist" writings and ineluctably rejecting the "culprit" literature. Its "founding imaginary" [9] performs an ethical schemata placed at the basis of all interpretative acts so as the recuperative reading usually distorts the fictional writing by finding "discrediting authorial guilt" which labels both the writers and their "shameful ideological pact." Thus, the revisionist self-defines through his critical argumentative discourse imprinting his inner ontological identity reflected as Self-centred mirror. The over-empowerment of the "l'enracinement d'une longue mémoire sociale sédimentée dans les schèmes incorporés" [10] and the public condemnation of the "totalitarianism' followers" turn into the nodal points of "critical banishment" during which the critic himself becomes the Judge sentencing the writers / writings to value dissolution. Within the critical discourse, the public "sacrificial" scenario echoes back as "compensatory auto-biography" mirroring different conflictive types of Self-displacements pointing to a tormented heterogeneous identity ever in search of recognition. Hence "les conflits de reconnaissance sont pourtant révélateurs des tensions qui dynamisent le production identitaire [...]. La structure hétérogène de l'individu et l'affichage de facettes identitaires changeantes produisent en réalité des demandes multiples adressées à des cercles de confirmation spécifiques" [11]. The identity inner representations - mediated through the critical discourse - belong to the "second hélice" pattern invoked by Kaufmann: it "fait intervenir la subjectivité, la mise en images ou en pensées de nouvelles orientations possibles, et, au final, une décision (plus ou moins consciente) sur les éventuelles rectifications du cours de l'existence, en décalage avec les attendus de la socialisation" (our emphasis) [12]. The overbid moral criterion artificially justifies the "newly legitimised literary hierarchy" pointing to a covert reversed complex of inferiority marking the critical Self. Gh.Grigurcu, a Romanian "revisionist" critic, becomes an interesting exemplum of compensatory biographical "re-invention" as his virulent inquisitorial articles published in post-December România literarâ revue mirror this type of self-legitimizing discourse. His "sliding autobiographic mystification" is motivated through the critical "indictment scenario" whose dominant aim is to give compensatory authority to the critical voice by entailing the "History' victim" profile of the critic who claims to have experienced the totalitarian persecution. Thus, "entre identité biographique et identité immédiate, ego utilise deux modalités identitaires relativement opposées dans leur logique de fonctionnement. [...] la croyance au moi abstrait et à la continuité identitaire gommant les effets de rupture" [13]. The ontological clivage occurring between the creditable ego (socially represented by others as "ideological collaborationist" - "the Proletkult age" involuntarily denounces its pharisees - in his analyses of M. Nitescu's Sub zodia proletcultismului. Dialectica puterii / Under the Proletkult Sign. The Dialectics of Power, Andrei Grigor points out that the author speaks about Grigurcu's regime-locked poems which definitely disqualify the latter as post-December critical judge of the "opportunistic writing" - see the approach in Grigor's study published in 2008 [14] - and the mystified one interfere within the "multiple identity" matrix rendering "structures psychologiques généralement pathologiques dans lesquelles l'individu est divisé entre plusieurs personnalités nettement constituées et relativement étanches entre elles; Doctor Jeckyl et Mister Hide" [15]. The bi-polar phenomenon of identification results in the occurrence of "l'antinomie essentielle (qui se profile derrière la contradiction identité biographique / identité immédiate): celle qui oppose l'unité d'une part, les décalages et la fragmentation de l'autre. [...] L'affichage de soi possible se caractérise comme une activité de distorsion de la réalité sociale (...), de continuelle production d'écarts avec la socialisation existante. Le processus identitaire, dans sa composante la moins connue, est donc non pas un regroupement sur soi mais au contraire une sortie du soi habituel" [16]. In his article published in 1995, Gh.Grigurcu programmatically debates on Exilul intern / The Internal Exile and its form of manifestation, arguing that, during Romanian totalitarianism, the provincial writer is the only one who has truly fought against the unique Party by writing his "resistance fiction" - it is he, the "ideological serf' (Gh.Grigurcu) and not the "canonical writer of the Centre", who can honourably be defined as "cultural opponent" of the regime; as a consequence, the province turns into an "imprisoning enclave" displaying two ways of survival: "In its internal form, the exile as revelatory topos ever risks the devastating effects of inhibition, conformity and de-composing. Having around no supporting element, no attraction point, no benevolent energy to rely on, the internal renegade is compelled to fight for his dignity and existence, being

irremediably caught between the aerial-walled detention. Otherwise, he is close to brutal conformism, low provincial collapse of Chekhovian nature (Ionici, uncle Vanea)" (our translation) [17]. Dystopian version of the external exile (or diaspora), yet deeply rooted into the contemporary socio-political reality of the dictatorship age, "the ontological periphery" (Gh.Grigurcu) - always protected by the spaces of the marginal cities and empowered through privative ways of repression such as house arrest, closing up the in / out dynamics or the ideological pressure limiting the acts of the "thinking subject" - legitimizes, as Grigurcu claims, the supreme power of doctrinaire overruling: the real, creditable punishments (be they physical of ideological) of the "literary rioters" have taken place here, in the province and not in Bucharest. Lacking "the relative advantages assured by diaspora", "the exiled to his own home", a passive combatant of the dominant social regime who can but fight back by mediating iconoclastic ideas though his writing, experiences the compensatory alternative of "Self-seclusion" within which he stubbornly redefines himself: "He replaces the overtly expressed freedom of braking away with the alienating world with the inner obligation of suppressing its daily influence, its permanent contamination heavily exercised in the these isolated places, irremediably forgotten by God. The freedom of constructing a new identity is now replaced by the internal need to desperately comprehend one's own injured identity" (our translation) [18]. "The captives of the margin" (at this point, so as to give credit to his theory, the critic refers to I.D. Sârbu's exemplum conveying the standard status of "the secluded identity" trapped in the concentric topos of Craiova) have to face the aggressive local nomenclature enhancing, in Grigurcu's view, an acute complex of inferiority in relation to the central repressive system - these are the new inhabitants of the province, "the reservation of the undesirables" living in "a certain type of enlarged Siberian space with no recognisable Centre. Because, despite its centralising tendency, the communist regime was not capable of creating real metropolis, authentic cultural centres, being always approached as a remote Province both by Europe and West. Within this generic Province, it constructed a secondary province divided into autonomous parcels guarding and oppressing the undesirables. A Gheena of absolute abjection and turpitude" (our translation) [19]. Grigurcu's approach on periphery paradigm as displaying the traits of the anti-communist enclave is apparently seductive and culturally valid as it is anchored in some well-known examples of provincial opponents - as in the case of I.D. Sârbu -, but a basic idea is in question: why is periphery the privileged space of "cultural resistance" discrediting the forms generated by the Centre? Actually, it is an actualisation of "mystified identification" as Grigurcu - a "provincial" critic looking for recognisable "canonical" status - covertly identifies himself with the "Periphery's cultural resistance" paradigm which would authorise him to start his "inquisitorial anger". The schizophrenic identity bias stimulates the elaboration of the "fictionalised self' pointing to a retorted mechanism of auto-biographical identification: by quoting Anthony Giddens, Kaufmann argues that "l'individu est condamné à chasser les dissonances significatives pour construire un 'cocon protecteur aidant à maintenir la sécurité ontologique' " [20]. The displacements from the "soi habituel" to the "identitiés totalitaires" (Kaufmann) enable the discourse-mediated self to act as "normative Centre" so "le jeu d'identités disponibles est riche en effet, les totalisations sont brèves et se succèdent en faisant alterner des systèmes étiques et cognitifs contrastés. Ego se transforme en manipulateur de ses totalitaires provisoires, et développe nécessairement une distance gestionnaire, voire réflexive, avec ces soi changeants" [21]. Grigurcu's alter-ego meant to ontologically compensate his social periphery stigmata opens the violent competition with the "picks" of the Romanian critique perceived as direct rivals: his reiterated "excursus on morality" working on both writers and critics (but totally different from Eugen Simion's - the mentor of the "aesthetic autonomy" movement or Sorin Alexandrescu's, another Romanian critic whose interpretative discourse enhance the intermingled double-bind identity, the "interiorised exile" and the "writing of Otherness" - see Antofi's approach [22]) turns into "the unreliable biographic mystification" perverting the true value of the great Romanian writings of the totalitarian age. His attempt of decoding the relation between "espace social et pouvoir symbolique" [23] and its extensions within the literary discourse (for the analysis of the Romanian works debating on the literary implications of the writer -writing - history triad see Crihanâ, [24] and for their Western counterparts see Milea [25]) is fading away as his programmatic discourse on "the internal exile" deliberately premeditates the inquisitorial saga entailed by the

articles he publishes in România literarâ of the next year, 1996. The critical persecution of the so-called "literary traitors" actually reinforces the doctrinaire critique of the 50's to the extent to which the Self turns from the would-be "ideological opponent" into a "torturer" reductively punishing both the writers and their writings. The "purification" of Romanian literature by convicting all its "harmful, despicable" figures - even we are talking about the representative models such as Câlinescu, Eugen Simion, Preda, Petru Dumitriu, Arghezi and other "undesirables" - begins with the aesthetically inconsistent attack on Câlinescu - "the collaborationist" prototype - as opposed to the "honorable" Lovinescu [26]. The critic actually tries to re-invent himself through a legitimizing Self-mystification, mirroring the "personal mythology" compensating his inferiority syndrome entailed by each and every individual interpretative approach. The only arguments selected to back up his view are aesthetically irrelevant as they cope with the biographic contamination with the "collaborationist ideology" which is assumed to invalidate Câlinescu's "autonomist" method. The post-December reverberations of this approach are obvious: on one side,"the autonomists"; on the other, "the east-ethical" praxis. This dichotomy is artificial in its nature and Grigurcu's "non-conformist" discourse is Self-destructing: the illusionary "demystifying" reading targeted to expose the "literary culprits" points à rebours to an autobiographical "mise en scène" bringing into the open the redundant profile of "the marginal" - or, in his programmatic terms, of "the resistant internal exiled" - in search for "canonic" recognition. The post-December followers of Câlinescu's method are also discredited (the critics of Literatorul are driven into a corner), in fact any type of critical discourse which injures his Self-centric identity. The critic's personal option for such a virulent type of discourse, conveying subliminally an "unstable interchangeable identity" becomes disturbing only when it claims the right to be assumed as critical post-December model, even if it displays obvious aesthetical inconsistency. The nonproductive mixture of ethical /aesthetical criteria enhance only a unique target: its authorial ego reconstruction, the mystifying recuperation of a "personal mythology" disguised under the public mask of "the opponent" and his "rightful thinking."

Acknowledgements

This paper is supported by the Sectorial Operational Programme Human Resources Development (SOP HRD), financed from the European Social Fund and by the Romanian Government under the contract number SOP HRD/89/1.5/S/59758.

References

[1] Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2004), L'invention de soi. Une théorie de l'identité, Armand Collin, footenote 1, 42.

[2] Ibidem., 42.

[3] Ibidem, 73.

[4] Ibidem., 76.

[5] Ibidem., 151.

[6] Augé, Marc (1998), Les formes de l'oubli, Payot&Rivages, 44.

[7] Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2004), op.cit., 159.

[8] Ibidem., 159.

[9] Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2008), Quand Je est un autre. Pourquoi et comment ça change en nous, Armand Collin, 82.

[10] Ibidem., 53.

[11] Ibidem., 67.

[12] Ibidem, 81.

[13] Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2004), op.cit., 160.

[14] Grigor, Andrei (2008), Contestarea criticii estetice. Cazurile T.Maiorescu, E.Lovinescu, G.Câlinescu / Contesting the Aesthetic critique. The Cases of T.Maiorescu, E.Lovinescu, G.Câlinescu in Literatura în epoca totalitarismului. Perioada 1945-1965 in cultura romand / Literature under the Totalitarian age. 1945-1965 (eds. Lucian Chiçu & Laurentiu Hanganu), Printech, Bucharest. All the quoted fragments are translated by us.

[15] Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2004), op.cit., 160.

[16] Ibidem., 164.

[17] Grigurcu, Gh. (1995), Exilul intern / The Internal Exile, in România literarä, no. 50 / December 20th. All the quoted fragments are translated by us.

[18] Grigurcu, Gh. (1995), Exilul intern / The Internal Exile in România literarä, no. 50 / December 20th. All the quoted fragments are translated by us.

[19] Grigurcu, Gh. (1995), Exilul intern / The Internal Exile, in România literarä, no. 50 / December 20th. All the quoted fragments are translated by us.

[20] Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2004), L'invention de soi. Une théorie de l'identité, Armand Collin, 209.

[21] Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2004), L'invention de soi. Une théorie de l'identité, Armand Collin, 209.

[22] Antofi, Simona (2007), Discursul critic românesc în exil. Sorin Alexandrescu între exilul interior scriitura Celuilalt / The Romanian Critique of the Exile. Sorin Alexandrescu between the Internal Exile and the Writing of the Other, in ,La Francopolyphonie: langues et identités" Conference Proceedings, vol.I, Institut de recherches philologiques et interculturelles, Universitatea Libera International din Republica Moldova / The International Free University of Moldavian Republic, 126-132.

[23] Bourdieu, Pierre (1987), Choses dites, Minuit, 147-166.

[24] Crihanä, Alina (2011), Aspecte ale memorialisticii româneçti posttotalitare: între pactul autobiografic pactul cu istoria / On the Romanian Post-totalitarian Memoir Writings : between the Autobiographic Pact and the Pact with the Great History, Europlus, Galati.

[25] Milea, DoiniDa (2005), Spatiu cultural çiforme literareîn secolul XX. Reconfiguräri / The Cultural Space and its Literary Forms in the XXth Century. Revisions, E.D.P., Bucharest.

[26] Grigurcu, Gh. (1996), Consideratii asupra lui E.Lovinescu /Approaching E.Lovinescu's Work, in România literarä, no. 2 /January 17th. All the quoted fragments are translated by us.