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CREES Brown Bag. “Grounding Socialism: Architecture, Archeology, and Conflicting Materialities in Bucharest’s Old Court Area (1953-1967).”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
4:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

Emanuela Grama, doctoral candidate in anthropology and history, U-M. Sponsors: CREES, CES-EUC.

This talk focuses on the debates over the meanings and urban remodeling of a central area of Bucharest, the Old Court (Curtea Veche in Romanian), circumscribed by the ruins of a palace built by a Wallachian prince at the end of the 17th century and abandoned a century later. The area’s historical importance was resuscitated under the post-1945 socialist regime, when the Old Court came to occupy a central point in the network of archeological digs opened in the city center. The results of successive excavations—the unearthing of the walls of the court and some rooms of the royal palace—led archeologists to lay new claims over the site. The Old Court suddenly became a highly problematic case, because, instead of allowing architects to close it down, the archeologists pursued its transformation into a “historical reservation”—that is, a space not to be touched by the radical remodeling of the city’s center. We encounter in the case of the Old Court a dual project of radical re-ordering: whereas the architects intended to produce a sense of social order via a spatial remaking of the city’s form, the archeologists working in the area aimed to reorder the site’s own history. The struggle over the meanings of the Old Court—ranging from representing a historical site of national importance for archeologists, to being dismissed as ruins buried underground by architects working on remodeling the area—illustrates the complex mechanisms of the struggle for resources through diverging disciplinary visions of what the past was and where could it be found in Romania during the 1950s and 1960s.