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The Anxiety of the Global. Rethinking the Second Globalization from the European Periphery (1960s-1990s)
Postdoctoral Project at the Graduate School
My project aims to tell two intertwined stories. On the one hand, I am interested to explore how socialist foreign trade employees (workers and experts alike) understood the opportunity to participate in and the necessity to compete on global markets and how this combined experience in turn shaped Eastern Europe domestic and international realignments in the Cold War and after. On the other hand, I aim to show how the global turn of the socialist economies in the East was not only influenced by transformations of the global economy, but might also illuminate key processes of financialization, rising public debt, overproduction or offshoring that are customarily said to originate with the great transformation of the 1970s. How should we think about the globalization of East European economies beginning with the 1970s, the emergence of new professions in global trade under late state socialism and the transition to capitalism after 1989 across the region? What role did socialist trade experts, while-collar middlemen and sales representatives play in integrating late socialist economies into world markets and how did their experience, professional networks, and skillset acquired in business transactions across the globe shape the emergence of capitalism in Eastern Europe during the 1990s? Grounded in archival research in multiple locations as well as oral history, this project maps the life- and work-cycles of a cohort of qualified employees (Fachkräfte) from their rise as a professional group during the globalization of late state socialism in the 1970s to their involvement in the great social and economic transformation that ensued after the collapse of the East European communist regimes. In so doing, this project weaves together the recent revival of capitalism as an object of research among labor historians (Kocka ed. 2016) and the bourgeoning literature on the transformation of East European working-classes during the second half of the twentieth century (Siefert ed. forthcoming 2018). Analytically, the goal of this project is twofold: on the one hand, I provide an empirically rich and multilayered explanation of social change on the East European periphery that sheds new light on the crisis of state socialism and the subsequent transition to capitalism; on the other hand, I challenge labor history’s traditional focus on manual workers and productive work by turning to qualified employees (Fachkräfte) in areas of economic life such as foreign trade that were a direct outcome of the second wave of globalization that unfolded beginning with the 1970s. This double epistemological displacement - geographical and disciplinary -, ought to allow for differentiating between labor history of old and the emerging global history of work - both in terms of research focus and methodologies.
The Labour Question in Postwar Romania (1944-1954) — completed
Doctoral thesis / Project as Guest Researcher at the Graduate School
My doctoral dissertation explores the dynamics of social change in mid-twentieth century Romania from the vantage point of industrial workers. In line with the recent turn to working-class history in East Central Europe, my project examines the manifold ways in which metalworkers and miners lived through and labored along the successive dictatorships of the 1940s and 1950s in Romania. Informed by historical anthropology, the project sets itself two complementary tasks. First, it aims to recover through thick description the cultural universe of industrial workers and the sheer gamut of experiences nurtured by the unfolding of the Second World War on the home-front. Secondly, it makes an argument about the social context in which postwar industrialization took place in terms of “cheap labour”. In this view, socialist industrialization had to rely on wartime policies designed to keep workers’ purchasing power as low as possible in order to enable massive investments in heavy industry. My dissertation contributes to an emergent critical historiography that tries to locate the social consequences of the Second World War in East Central Europe and to provide a more nuanced understanding of the postwar transition to state socialism.
Adrian Grama completed his B.A. in Political Science at the University of Bucharest in 2007 and was awared his M.A. degree in Nationalism Studies by the Central European University in Budapest in 2009. 2016 he completed his Ph.D. in Comparative East, Central and Southeastern European History at the Central European University. He was Visiting Fellow at the Graduate School from January 2015 to mid-April 2015. He joined the Graduate School as Postdoctoral Researcher in November 2017.
Positions, Assignments and Memberships
- Member of the Study Group "Social Sorting"
- Associate editor for "European Review of History / Revue européenne d’histoire"
Laboring Along. Industrial Workers and the Making of Postwar Romania (= Work in Global and Historical Perspective; 4). Berlin 2019.
Journal Articles and Book Chapters
Practices of Distance and Perceptions of Proximity: Trade-Union Delegates and Everyday Politics in Post-Second World War Romania. In Muriel Blaive (Hg.): Perceptions of Society in Communist Europe. Regime Archives and Popular Opinion, London 2019), S. 33-48.
“Labor’s Risks: Work Accidents, the Industrial Wage Relation and Social Insurance in Socialist Romania”, in Marsha Siefert (ed.) Labor in State Socialist Europe after 1945. Contributions to Global Labor History (Budapest: CEU Press, 2018; forthcoming).
With Susan Zimmermann: The Art of Link-Making in Global Labor History: Subaltern, Feminist and East European Interventions. In: European Review of History/ Revue européenne d’histoire 25 (1), 2018, pp. 1-20, DOI: DOI: 10.1080/13507486.2017.1374927.
With Dan Mihai Cîrjan, “Marxism strategic şi social-democraţie interbelică [Strategic Marxism and Interwar Social Democracy], in Andrei State and Alex Cistelecan (eds.) Plante Exotice. Teoria şi practica marxiştilor români [Exotic Plants. The Theory and the Praxis of Romanian Marxists], (Cluj: Tact, 2015), 43-125.
“Rethinking the Post-War Conjuncture: Labour and the Politics of Productivity in Eastern Europe (1945-1960)”, paper to be presented at “Worlds of Labour Turned Upside Down – Revolutions and Labour Relations in Global Historical Perspective”, ITH Conference, Linz, Austria
“Oamenii meșterului. Istoria cotidiană și economia politică a reformelor salariale în România anilor ’50 [The Foreman’s Men. Everyday History and the Political Economy Of Wage Reforms in Romania during the 1950s”, paper presented at Istoria socială a comunismului românesc. Surse, metodologii, abordări, perspective [The Social History of Romanian Communism. Sources, Methodologies, Approaches, Perspectives], Facultatea de Istorie și Filozofie, Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
“The Fear of the Masses: Workers, Communists and the Question of Physical Violence in Postwar Romania”, paper presented at Perceptions of Society at the Top in East Central Europe, 1945-1981, International Conference, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes & Centre of French Civilization in Warsaw, Prague, Czech Republic
“Not Only the Liberty of the Individual but also the Rights of the Workers”: Exiled Trade-Unionists and the Language of Totalitarianism during the Early Cold War; paper presented at The Allure of Totalitarianism: The Roots, Meanings, and Political Cycles of a Concept in Central and Eastern Europe, International Conference, Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena, Germany
“The Limits of Forced Labor in Postwar Eastern Europe. Towards a Global Genealogy of Stabilization Policies”, paper presented during re: work/Humboldt Universität zu Berlin Summer Academy, Work and Non-Work in Global Perspective, Seoul, Republic of Korea
“Regulating Labor’s Risks: Welfare and Crisis in late Socialist Romania”, paper presented at the Third Annual Europe & the World International Graduate Conference, Reims, France
“Labor’s Risks: Work Accidents and the Logic of Productivity in Socialist Romania”, paper presented at European Social Science History Association, Vienna, Austria