The Memorial of Pain – some thoughts about my Romania and colonialism

As a Romanian, the colonialism was never the main topic of interest for me, and neither was a subject taught in detail in school. It seemed pretty far from me, from my country’s problems, from anything I knew and felt confident talking about. This is one of the reasons I delayed so much this individual coursework, the other one is, of course, my laziness, but even in this laziness of mine, I still thought about this subject and how can I shape my short written work around it. It wasn’t easy, I must say this, but it made me change a little my perspective.

Romania is neither a colonized country nor are we the colonizers. Parts of our country were occupied by foreigners: Hungarians, Turks, we had greek rulers under the Phanariot regime, and our king was german, but we never talked about ourselves as a nation, as a country, in terms of colonizing or being colonized. But thinking, and thinking and trying to write this, and reading what my colleagues wrote, I just realized something. We were in fact colonized. No, we were not colonized by the Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, or the Great Britain, of course not. We didn’t need to be colonized by these countries. We were on the same continent as they were, and obviously, did not represent any kind of interest. No, our colonization came much later, when we were already “educated”, “civilized”, knew how to use a fork and knife, when we were Christians, and had been for a while, and from much closer, it came from a country border in border with Romania. A country which we ended being allied with at the end of the World War  2.

No, of course, I’m not using the term: colonization in the same way an African does, but after reading, as I already said, some of my colleagues’ posts on the same subject, I came to the conclusion that our “colonization”  had similar outcomes. The country I’m talking about, if it’s not already obvious, it’s Rusia, or more precisely The Soviet Union. No, The Soviet Union never really occupied Romania, but the fact that Romania was a part of the communist block is already more than acquainted, and it stripped Romania of a part of Moldavia, wich is now a different country (under Russian influence), but feeling Romanian. The effect? We still feel it deep inside our bones, our souls, it still haunts us, we still cannot accept and swallow our past whole, we don’t even completely understand it.

It was somehow instinctual for me to come to the conclusion that the soviet influence functioned more or less as a colonisation process. The idea regarding The Soviet Union acting as a colonizer force within the communist block did not pass undebated by scholars. In Introduction: Postcolonial studies and postsocialism in Eastern Europe, Jill Owczarzak, although states that:

the aim of this special section is not to assert that Central and Eastern European countries were colonized by Soviet Russia after World War II, as the edited volume From Sovietology to postcoloniality: Poland and Ukraine from a postcolonial perspective (Korek 2007) attempts to do. Rather, we suggest that “postsocialism” has been used as a geographic label, not an analytic category, in contrast to “postcolonialism,” which has a rich history as a theoretical paradigm. (Owczarzak)

The article then follows the way 4 prominent themes in the postcolonial discourse are present in the post-socialist area: orientalism, nation and identity, hybridity and voice. Even though the main topic of this article mainly regards gender and sexuality issues in eastern Europe, under and post the socialist regime, the use of themes deeply linked to colonialism and postcolonialism is a link in itself.

Due to its geographical position, Russia’s statute in Europe is problematic. It does not belong to the West and colonization came from the West, that being the civilized and privileged part of the “world”.  David Chioni Moore discusses in Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique Russia’s uncertain statutes, its conquers previous to the socialist era, and its desire for recognition, of not being considered the European other due to its eastern position on the map. Even so:

Those who would argue that the Soviets were simply differently configured colonists could point, again inter ala, to the mass and arbitrary relocation of entire non-Russian peoples; ironic Soviet national fixing of countless formerly less defined identities and the related tortured intertwining of the Uzbek-Kyrgyz-Tajik border to guarantee an ethnic strife; the genocidal settling of the Kazakh nomad millions from 1929 to 1934; the forced monoculture across Central Asia and the consequent ecological disaster of the Aral Sea; The Soviet reconquest of the once independent Baltic states in 1941; the invariable Russian ethnicity of the number-two man in each republic; the inevitable direction of Russia’s Third World policy from its Moscow center, and tanks in 1956 and 1968 in Budapest and Prague. (Moore)

Following the Soviet domination, and the fall of the Iron Curtain upon the Eastern and Central Europian countries, these states, due to the title of being communists were regarded as a whole block, much like the colonized states. These states were, and in certain parameters still are considered the European other, hence the Russian, Ukranian mail-order brides, which as in the case of Asian mail-order brides, who are just, Asian with no actual nationality in the Western conscience, are classified as Russian speaker women. The lack of attention given to the actual position of geographical borders is reinforced by even the casual confusion between Budapest and Bucharest, and by the fact that countries which are geographically placed in Central Europe are labeled as Eastern countries. We may not all speak Russian today, but the language was mandatory studied in schools and universities and historical facts were altered according to the regime’s aims.

At the question about the colonizing nature of the Soviet Union, Moore, answers:

From an Uzbek, Lihuanian, or Hungarian perspective one would have to answer yes. (Moore)

From a Romanian perspective… well, I can only answer from the heart. I don’t feel like a colonized, but I can see the effects of communism every single day.

What communism did to Romania, to us Romanians, to my family, to me? It banished our king, it killed our intellectuals, our scholars, our philosophers, our artists, it kneeled our freedom, it cut our tongues, it took away our religion, it made us fight over a piece of bread and a handful of sugar, it kept us in the cold, in the dark, and it filled our hearts with fear. Fear of speaking, of shouting out loud, fear of being who we really are, fear of failure, of not being who we are supposed to be, and the most atrocious possible thing it did to us, it made our children sell their own parents for not approving in their own little homes with the Party’s ideals. It turned us into murderers, it made us kill our dictators on Christmas. It took our dignity away, our freedom, our humanity.

Yes, Russian was taught in schools, everyone was dressed in a uniform, we worshiped our dictators which were sustained by the Soviets, we lived in tiny, cold, and dark apartments in concrete blocks built over the corpses of our homes. No, the Russians never truly occupied us, even though their tanks were ready at out border, but they occupied our minds, they educated our leaders to be cruel, heartless, mindless. Our political prisons were tremendous, our Romanian “securisti” were trained by the Soviets and sent back to rule our prisons, to punish the ones who still had, in spite of everything, a voice… a shadowy remain of a voice, and the punishments they applied were so heinous that the Russians never used them in their prisons.

Yes, everybody had a job, yes everybody had a place made of walls and a ceiling to sleep in, yes the party made canteens for our workers to eat in, yes school was school, and the teacher was teacher, and yes, it ruthless suffocated our dreams, and our dreams shouted for a while… some longer than others, until they turned into ashes.

And when it was over, it was never over. Nowadays, we learn about the holocaust, about others’ sins, but we just mention our communist prisons, our silent martyrs who died building Casa Poporului or the canal Dunarea-Marea Neagra, whose bodies were lost forever in the mud, whose names only mattered for the ones who were hopelessly waiting for them to come back. We barely hear in schools about Nicolae Steinhardt, we scarcely talk about the fact that communists gave us money, but nothing to buy, gave us serious education, but censored our books, built us apartments, tiny apartments as we would’ve been rats, but demolished our homes, replaced our God with Lenin, Stalin, and Ceausescu. We learn about the nazi concentration camps, but only mention the Russian deportation to Siberia, the Russian famine. There are still nostalgics, there are young people saying they are fed up with all the post-communist discourse when communism it’s not even a post in our lives. Yes, we can travel freely. Yes, we can state our opinions now, but we still don’t, or we do, but it’s in vain. Yes, we have a visible freedom, but we don’t know what to do with it. We are egoistic, we can’t unite for a common goal,  we only care for our plate of food. We’re mean to each other, we’re bored, disgusted by our own country, with our own nation, we’re tired of being Romanians, we’re so tired that we leave, and never come back.

Cyborgs among us and our projection in the virtual world

We imagine cyborgs like this:

ex-machina-trailer

or like this:cyborgs

An image probably proposed for the first time by Metropolis’ (1927) mechanical Maria, which was, as the ones in the images above and Rachel from Blade Runner, who’s on the cover photo, made of steel, of nuts, bolts, and screws, covered with a synthetic pellicle resembling human skin. These science-fiction visual representations shaped through the years our perception on cyborgs. We could not possibly be something like that. We were born from our mother’s womb, we breath, we bleed, we feel. While we might not be robots in the denotative sense of the word, we do tend to ground our daily activities on technology. The first thing I do in the morning, while I’m still sleepy under the covers, is checking my phone. I listen to music on my way to university and my earphones are plug into my ears while I usually hold my phone in my hand to check the time because I’m always just a bit late.

If I drop my phone, I panic (actually not anymore, as I dropped it so many times I still wonder how the poor thing still works), if my laptop stops working or isn’t working properly, which tends to happen quite a lot in the last couple of days, I get angry, I feel like a part of me isn’t working. This addiction, this constant need for technology couldn’t be a sign of “cyborg-ing”? The fact that we almost feel the pain when our precious technological device hits the ground, isn’t a sign that we’ve incorporated it not only into our lives but in our “selves” as persons?

And just between us, Rachel from Blade Runner did feel, she had memories, she fell in love, she suffered, she didn’t even know that she wasn’t human in the sense of being made out of flesh and blood. She went through an existential crisis when she understood her nature as a cyborg. Seeing myself as partly cyborg isn’t nearly as dramatic, although it might change a bit my discourse on what makes me a Human being.

If being vulnerable, getting hurt, getting tired are some of the characteristics which shape my humanity, then what about Heilwig? Heilwig gets tired too, she gets hurt too, she even dies, but then, World of Warcraft has this awesome feature of reviving characters, which isn’t the case with the real world. No, of course, Heilwig isn’t human, not as me and you, not as a race either, she’s a Draenei (a word I don’t even really know how to pronounce).

draenei2

“The Draenei (meaning Exiled Ones in their own tongue) are a faction of uncorrupted eredar who fled their home world of Argus to escape the corruption of the demonic Burning Legion. Led by Prophet Velen and guided by the divine naaru, they traveled throughout the cosmos in search of a safe world to settle on, eventually landing on a planet they would come to call Draenor, or “Exiles’ Refuge”. For centuries, the draenei lived in relative peace with Draenor’s native orcs, until agents of the Burning Legion found them. As the orcs were corrupted by the Legion and formed the original Horde, the draenei were slaughtered en masse and driven into hiding. Eventually, they managed to escape Draenor on the Exodar, a vessel of the naaru fortress of Tempest Keep, crash-landing on Azeroth; more specifically, on the Azuremyst Isles off the western coast of Kalimdor. Once they had arrived on Azeroth, the draenei allied with the Alliance and aided them in the war in Outland.” (1) Of course, I knew nothing of this when I chose my avatar’s race, I just liked that she was blue and had horns. She looks partly human, but still had that fantastic, mythical, and mystical aura, and though she is a part of the “good” side, I still feel her looks give the impression of a dual nature as if she could flip sides at any moment.

Heilwig isn’t a cyborg either, at least not by herself. No, she is my projection in the realm of World of Warcraft, my embodiment, which if I think of it, makes me a cyborg. My choice was looks based mostly as I knew close to nothing about WoW. She does not necessarily depict features that I would like to “borrow” in the outside world, but I did create her in the way I would have created a fictional character in a written fantastic short story. The name I chose for her does not say much about myself, other than that I do have a soft spot for Germanic names. She is a wizard, because I had a passion for witches when I was little, so a bit of magic never killed anybody.

315064

As far as my identification with my avatar goes, there are two ways in which I refer and think of my character. When I’m in the game, playing, I do identify with her. If she dies I won’t think Heilwig died, I’ll say I died, my bag is full, and not Heilwig’s bag, when a siren’s attacks Heilwig, I’ll just think I’m being attacked, and that grisly creature is trying to kill me; of course if the siren isn’t attacking me, she’s not a grisly creature anymore, she’s just another  bytes-breathing being.

The game itself does help with this identification through the auxiliary characters which address you in the second person. Of course, they say “Hello, Heilwig!” and not “Hello, Maria!”, but I don’t seem to really notice that, because I am not really playing as my self. It’s more like my character is some kind of alter ego of mine, a part of me which isn’t visible on a daily basis, and only manifest itself when I enter World of Warcraft.

The view changes when I’m outside Azeroth. I will still say that I’m a Draenei, that I reached a certain level, or that I was killed 3 times the last time I played World of Warcraft, but I’m saying it out of habit. In my mind I project Heilwig’s image, and I am fully aware of the fact that she and me are distinct entities, which is totally different from when I’m playing. If I’d be informed she died, or she was the great hero of Azeroth I wouldn’t be impressed, I wouldn’t actually care much. She’s not real, I wouldn’t have to go to her funeral, I gain nothing from her grand success. She’s just a character, fictional character who wouldn’t be missed by anybody… until I click play. Until I see her on the screen. until I move her around and direct her to complete missions, which make her evolve as a character, as a part of WoW community. When I have that power over her, she suddenly becomes important. I start caring if she succeeds or dies, because it’s not Heilwig who does this, it’s actually me. I don’t feel as creator watching his creation, I feel as I am the creator and the creation at the same time. I allocate myself all of her merits, and I accept her defeats because it is, in fact, me who is playing, and she wouldn’t exist without me, which isn’t applicable the other way around.


(1) http://wow.gamepedia.com/Draenei


References:

Crick, T. (2011) ‘The Game Body: Toward a Phenomenology of Contemporary Video Gaming’. Games and Culture [online] 6 (3), 259-269. available from <http://gac.sagepub.com/content/6/3/259.full.pdf+html> [11 November 2016]

Farrow, R., Iacovides, I. (2014), ‘Gaming and the limits of digital embodiment’. Philosophy & Technology, [online] 27 (2), 221-233. available from <http://search.proquest.com/docview/1530371718?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=10286> [20 October 2016]

Graham, L. T., Gosling, S. D. (2012) ‘Impressions of World of Warcraft players’ personalities based on their usernames: Interobserver consensus but no accuracy’. Journal of Research in Personality [online] 46 (5), 599-603. available from <> [11 November 2016]

May, S. (2012) ‘Embodiment, Transparency and the Disclosiveness of Failure’. Body, Space & Technology [online]. available from <http://people.brunel.ac.uk/bst/vol11/shaunmay/home.html> [20 October 2016]

http://wow.gamepedia.com/Draenei

Writing Desire

She is loving and traditional… yet, no matter her traditionalism, she sets herself up on the world wide web to find a husband, most likely from the West as she is from the “dark, undeveloped, barbaric” part of the earth.

Ursula Biemann’s film, “Writing Desire”, confused me, as in fact, does the whole process of ordering women online. I just watched “Birthday Girl” a few days ago, but still, when thinking about this phenomenon, the first film which comes to my mind is “Lilya 4-ever”, which might actually be one of the most tragic films I ever saw. It saddens and revolts me not the idea of putting yourself out for sale on the internet, but the motives and lack of options behind it. In Romania, there was this phenomenon a few years ago which I kind of associated this whole process of online wives, when people, qualified people, left the country to work in other countries in places where the locals would never think of working and for a petty salary which was anyway more than they would have earned in Romania. These people weren’t just some unemployed young people, they were mostly parents, who saw their children once a year, if lucky because they thought that for their kids the money they sent was more important than their presence.

I think the video’s lack o narrative is replaced by suggestive images, running at a fast pace because of the sound background. And even though it blitz you with all these images, some of them representing just cities at night, and with the rhythmic melody which resembles the song from Holiday’s advertising, you still get the feeling that this is not a promotional advert for your perfect vacation. Something in the monotony of the sound background, the blurry images, their changing speed gives the viewer, meaning me, the feeling that what it represents is awfully wrong. Of course, the silence moments, the black moments, and the verbal discourse come to reinforce this feeling, to confirm it. And the title, “Writing desire” is ambiguous. Whose desire? How can you write a desire? The desire for writing? Well, the desire these women are writing is not actually written but can be read between the lines, it is their desire for a better life, their desire to escape from the place and the life they are forced to live.

Transnational Subjectivity – week 2

Mail order bride??? – A mailorder bride is a woman who lists herself in catalogs and is selected by a man for marriage. (I know about the dating, more than dating sites, but never heard of this); you can order your bride online like you’d order a new set of kitchen knives and exchange money for an “exotic” woman.

Love happens on, through, thanks to or because of a screen.

But what is love?

an emotion, care, desire, passion, rely on someone, acceptance (I really like this one), empathy, respect and trust (these 2 as well), affect, romance, responsibility, power

but can also have a “dark” side: narcissism, love of power, of money, of position; remember passion crimes?

  • the romantic commodities – begins with the novel (I just started reading Wuthering Heights)

Is love universal, essential?

it might, the emotion is universal, but its expression is different; essential? I think yes, e.g. mother love, and the effect its lack have on the child (even on animals)

What structures, social institutions shape love?

family, marriage, church, school, the media (songs, films, series, books)

Love is a market strategy. Novelesque love is not real but it seems the only kind of love we know. The image of love is running into the lilac sunset hands in hands with you soul mate, but where is love for the human being, for breathing creatures? Venus Hottentot never seemed to find it, because she was different, and more, she was a slave. One can not possibly love a slave, it would be like loving a horseshoe.

West <-> East – defined through contrasts: educated west, barbaric east, developed west, undeveloped east, civilized west, barbaric east => orientalist discourse (shaped by media)

Tasks:

  1. group meeting, discussion about the components of the case study – checked
  2. comment the visceral, embodied, auditory sensorial, affective and tactile forms of knowledge (Writing Desire)
  3. how has colonialism shaped your subjectivity? are you the colonizer or the colonized? how has your culture represented “the other”? how can you articulate your subjectivity through postcolonial theories?

 

 

Transnational Subjectivity – week 1

Paris Attack: horrible, revolting, unnecessary violence

Tsunami Urge: the power of nature, frightening

EU Referendum: shocking, unexpected, what now?

Who are we? Who are we in this world?

What is a nation?

  • a group of people living in the same country, sharing the same beliefs, culture, religion, speaking the same language

Can nationality be changed?

  • yes, we can identify with another culture and embrace the way of living from other countries
  • it can be changed legally by earning another country citizenship

What is nationalism?

  • exaggerated patriotism

We touched the subject of colonialism and its effects on the colonized countries. The different perspectives: – for the colonizers, they were bringing education, culture, and… in an undeveloped country

– for the colonized, the invaders were forcing a lifestyle that did not define them, robbed their country, changed their home into a strangers house.

History should not be looked at in a linear way and from just one point of view.

Tasks:

  1. group meeting, discussing roles – checked
  2. notes on the essay film “WE” – checked, kind of
  3. notes on essay films

Screen Cultures and Selves – week 2

Meaning

Who we are? How do we understand who we are? How do we identify with images? How do we make meaning?

Semiotics

  • signs -how we understand signs?
  • Signifier -> <-Signification <- ->Signified

The signifier and signified are arbitrary -> no connection between the word and the image in your mind

pisica

CAT, KEDI, KIANWA, PISICA, 猫 (Mao)

You can remember learning a new set of signifiers, but not the firs one.

Signification just happens

Roland Barthes: denotation + conotation

How we make meaning in the world? We are told how to do it.

Myths = stories shared in a culture that aren’t true… until the point you start believing them

  • myths are built on binnary opposition 

Tasks:

  1. discuss in terms of myths: The Prodigy – Smack my bitch up, recod the conversation and post it on a member’s PDP -checked
  2. write a short self appraisal; myself as a girl in the frame of myths, do I and how do I identify as a girl? – checked

Screen Cultures and Selves – week 1

Me, myself and I. The way I look, the films I watch, the music I listen to, the books I read, the persons in whose presence I like to be, my way of communication, or the lack of it my dreams, my desires, my nightmares, memories, and fears define me, make me an individual.

Inner <-> outer world, our inner discourse is more complex, different from what leaves our lips (at least sometimes)

Favorite films:

Mine – Dogville… what does this say about me?

Channing’s – Inglorious Basterds – nice one

Aurora’s – Flipped – never heard of it, maybe I’ll watch it someday

Why? 

I  already answered this.

Tasks:

  1. Group work – meeting and seeing a non-american film from the 70′ and discuss it afterward – checked
  2. short description of a recent dream – checked
  3. favorite film reflection -checked

Research Practice Portfolio – week 2

Befriending WORDPRESS: categories, tags, widgets, media folders

Taking useful notes and posting them (only 5% of a lecture is remembered):

  • key words + personal ideas, thoughts, reflections
  • audio recordings
  • shared on PDP

By having all your class notes in the same place and well organized it’s easier to review your courses, find information, remember the lectures, and a starting point for research.

 

Research and Practice Portfolio – week 1

Research project proposal; mixed groups; 20 minutes brainstorming time; project presentation.

My team: Coventry city, 2 ways of transposing it in 2 short films: 1. a touristic advertise

2. subjective, personal, artistic,  own reflection

Members: Victoria, Sylvia, Aurora, Channing, me

A project/project proposal should be clear, not cover a too wide subject, applied, should have a definite public, born from personal passion and interests.

IMPACT, SIGNIFICANCE, EFFECT, INFLUENCE