Spectacular Politics and Everyday Performance: Tracing Music from Ceauşescu’s Romania to Multicultural America
Date of Degree
Peter L. Manuel
Jonathan H. Shannon
American Studies | Eastern European Studies | Ethnomusicology | Performance Studies | Political History
Romania, America, Diaspora, Postsocialism, Music, Nostalgia
Drawing from fieldwork conducted throughout the United States and Canada, this dissertation examines the continued performance of socialist-era music within the Romanian-American community. It addresses why a community largely made up of people who sought to leave the country during the authoritarian regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu continue to perform music tied to that period by tracing the historical performance and reception of multiple genres, ranging from traditional peasant music to folk rock. The dissertation begins by examining the nationalization of Romania’s music industry under the early socialist regime (1944-1965), and locates the difficulties Communist Party members confronted in delineating a clear aesthetic policy for the newly socialist country. It then introduces ways the Ceauşescu regime in particular used mass performance as a means of cultivating a sense of nationalist and socialist subjectivity within the populace, and argues that this project ultimately failed to maintain Ceauşescu’s cult of personality due to the ideological contradictions that developed during the era. These contradictions allowed citizens the opportunity to approach the music at mass performance in a polysemous fashion.
After discussing the development of these genres during the socialist era in Romania, the dissertation then turns to accounts on the performance of the music within the Romanian American community. First, it considers the extent to which the performance of the music acts nostalgically for Romanian-Americans, especially in comparison to the ways nostalgia may be musically manifested in postsocialist Romania. Second, it interrogates the notion that these socialist-era genres act to create a sense of cultural solidarity or diasporic consciousness within the community, by examining first how the performance of this music serves to separate the community along historically-developed class lines, and second how assimilation processes act to disrupt any sense of ethnic or national solidarity. The dissertation concludes by arguing that the ideological contradictions that came out of the Ceauşescu era granted socialist-era music a polysemous character, which in turn greatly allowed their perpetuation within the immigrant community. At the same time, the social environment during the Ceauşescu era, coupled with assimilation processes within the immigrant community and continuing class divisions, also contributed to the immigrant community’s difficulty in establishing strong communal bonds.
Dumbauld, Benjamin, "Spectacular Politics and Everyday Performance: Tracing Music from Ceauşescu’s Romania to Multicultural America" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.
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