History Department Scholarly & Social Meeting: The End Times and the Near Future: the temporalities of Old Believers’ ethics
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 5:30pm to 7:30pm
The Scholarly-Social Meetings, a joint student-faculty initiative, combine lecture series with after-hours integrative event. The aim of the Scholarly-Social Meetings is to provide insights into the research undertaken at our department and, no less importantly, to bring our students and faculty together in a more informal way, building up an academic community beyond the day-to-day scholarly activities.
The End Times and the Near Future: the temporalities of Old Believers’ ethics
In spite of the prominence of the secular-religious debates today, there is hardly any consideration of their particular configuration in the socialist context and its aftermath. The secularizing efforts of socialist states combined antireligious campaigns with scientific atheism to form rational subjects-citizens for whom religion was a superstition of the past. The success of this massive enterprise is highly debatable as witnessed in the postsocialist religious revival, with old and new ideologies proclaimed, refuted and constantly negotiated in everyday life, leaving both people and anthropologists confused by the sudden shifts in individual commitments. This paper navigates through such confusions looking at how Old Believers have dealt with the different ‘regimes of truth’ in socialist and postsocialist Romania. Their struggle to maintain an ascetic Orthodox culture in the midst of an intrusive atheist state was at odds with the sudden urge to join a modernizing project that preached a collective good. The demise of socialism gave them the chance to start anew, most often through a return to the old. Looking at two exemplary biographies I will discuss Old Believers’ attempts to shape their lives through ethical action rather than strong convictions or belief.