Romanian-Icelandic Research Cooperation on Democracy, Memory Politics and Post-Crisis Reconstruction
“Romanian-Icelandic research cooperation on democracy, memory politics and post-crisis reconstruction” is a trilateral project led by the EDDA Research Center at the University of Iceland in partnership with the Ratiu Democracy Centre and the Babes Bolyai University. It is part of the EEA and Norway Grants scheme and financed by the Fund for Bilateral Relations 2014–2021.
Research activities will be carried out and published between May 2022 and December 2023. Areas in focus will include the state of the liberal democratic order, experiences of and responses to societal disruptions, as well as democracy, memory politics and post-crisis.
The project includes a series of public conferences in Romania and Iceland, held in 2022 and 2023. Researchers from the EDDA Center, the Rațiu Democracy Centre, and the Babes-Bolyai University, as well as invited experts, will reunite in May 2022 at the Rațiu Conference Centre in Turda, Romania, for a public event that will be made available to both in-person and online participants. The conference series will continue in the autumn of 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the concluding event will be held in Turda in the spring of 2023.
- Explore the state of the liberal democratic order in Romania and Iceland from various political, social and historical perspectives
- Compare and contrast recent Romanian and Icelandic experiences of societal crises
- Compare and contrast Romanian and Icelandic responses to societal disruptions, such as democratic transitions, political and economic crises and pandemics and place them in a broader European context
- Raise awareness among the broader public on important topics such as democracy, memory politics and post-crisis, by using research-based knowledge developments
Liberal democracy has, in the last decade, come under intense pressure for various reasons, including political, economic and social crises. To respond to pandemics, political and social unrest, terrorism, financial crises, governments and supranational organizations have increasingly turned to emergency powers or to other extraordinary measures, restricting the rule of law or adopting various measures to suspend democratic processes.
What has coincided with the proliferation of “states of exception” is a surge of authoritarian and populist tendencies, with political leaders taking advantage of an “illiberal moment” to delegitimize democratic norms and practices.
While Romania and Iceland have followed different historical trajectories, they are both parts of the European project, with the former being an EU and NATO member and the latter an EEA and NATO member. Both have had to grapple with societal crises that have led to widespread protest and political instability.
To be sure, unlike Iceland, Romania had to go through difficult post-communist democratization and western institutional integration processes. Yet, both countries were hard hit by the 2008 global financial crisis and are currently struggling with the societal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the recently emerged refugees crisis, in the context of the Ukraine war.
A key focus of the project research component includes the legacies of the 1989 revolution in the field of institutions, democratization, human rights, economic transition and Europeanization.
For Iceland, the starting point will be the political, social and economic reactions to and consequences of the 2008 fall of its banking system, both within national and European contexts. The focus will be both on backwards-looking memory battles, particularly with respect to questions of blame and guilt, as well as on forward-looking narratives designed to provide “new beginnings”, such as the debate over a “crowd-sourced” constitution and the ” branding” of Icelandic economic reconstruction efforts. This experience will then be tied to the recent COVID-19 state of exception by looking specifically at the societal and political effects of the pandemic and the emergency measures adopted by the government.
The project also supports the goal of enhanced researched-based knowledge development in areas where the partners have high competency, including politics, democratization, institution building, gender issues, and social inclusion.
Using a comparative perspective to account for similarities and differences in the Icelandic and Romanian experiences, the project will the following themes:
- democratic institution-building and adaptation to European norms and structures
- project and instrumentalization of the Romanian past and national identity in government
- educational and public discourses
- the impact of recent semi-authoritarian development in Central and South-Eastern Europe on Romanian democracy
- government public responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
A Bilateral priority area that was identified includes the promotion of core European values, such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights, regardless of their racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identities.
- May 2022 – Opening conference in Turda, Romania, at the Rațiu Conference Centre
- October 2022 – Follow-up conference in Reykjavik, Iceland
- May 2023 – Concluding conference in Turda, Romania, at the Rațiu Conference Centre
- May 2022 – December 2023 – Research activities, writing and publishing
OPENING CONFERENCE IN TURDA, ROMANIA
Valur Ingimundarson is Professor of Contemporary History and Chair of the Board of the EDDA Research Center at the University of Iceland. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. His written works are on topics such as geopolitics, populism, and governance; Icelandic foreign and security policy; U.S.-European relations during and the Cold War; fascism, and nationalism; Arctic geopolitics; the politics of justice and memory; and post-conflict politics in the former Yugoslavia. Among his works are: Liberal Disorder, States of Exception, and Populist Politics (Routledge 2020); “The Geopolitics of the ‘Future Return’: Britain Century-Long Challenges to Norway’s Control over Spitsbergen,”, The International History Review (2018); Iceland’s Financial Crisis: The Politics of Blame, Protests, and Reconstruction (Routledge, 2016); Nordic Cold War Cultures (University of Helsinki Press, 2015); “War Crimes Memory, Estonian Identity Reconstructions, and Transnational Politics of Justice,” in Cold War Cultures (Berghahn 2012); The Rebellious Ally: Iceland, the United States, and the Politics of Empire,1945–2006 (Republic of Letters, 2011); “The Politics of Memory and the Reconstruction of Albanian National Identity in Post-War Kosovo,” History and Memory (2007). He has been a Visiting Professor/Fellow at London School of Economics, Free University (Berlin), Royal United Services Institute (London), Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, and Norwegian Center for International Studies (Oslo).
Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Iceland. Her research interests include life writing, memory studies, and contemporary literature. She has published widely on these issues including her two books, Borderlines: Autobiography and Fiction in Postmodern and Life Writing (2003) and Representations of Forgetting in Life Writing and Fiction (2017). Her most recent work is the edited volume Iceland-Ireland: Memory, Literature, Culture on the Atlantic Periphery (2022).
Jón Ólafsson is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland. His research interests combine cultural theory and political philosophy and his most recent papers deal with political culture, including dissent and protest action; epistemic democracy, democratic engagement, political agency and democratic constitutional design. He now leads a research project on Democratic Constitutional Design (2019-2023). From 2010 to 2013 Jón chaired a committee on ethical codes for government ministers, public servants and state employees, and in 2018 he led a working group on trust in government and public service which submitted a report and proposals to the Prime Minister in September 2018. He is a founding member of Gagnsæi the Icelandic chapter of Transparency International.
Irma Erlingsdóttir is a Professor and Director of the Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme (GEST), the EDDA – Centre of Excellence, and the Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference (RIKK) at the University of Iceland. She has a Ph.D. in French literature from Sorbonne University in Paris. She has led several large-scale academic projects in the fields of gender studies, globalization, contemporary politics and critical theory, and has a wide-ranging experience in cooperating with government ministries, public and private organizations on policy-relevant gender and equality research. As a specialist in gender studies, literature and critical contemporary philosophy, she has published articles and book chapters in these fields. Among her recent publications are: “The International Reification of the Icelandic Gender Equality Model,” in Eirinn Larsen, Sigrun Marie Moss and Inger Skjelsbak, Gender superpowers’: Branding the Nordics in times of uncertainty (London Routledge, 2021) and her edited monograph [with Giti Chandra] The MeToo Movement Handbook (London: Routledge, 2020).
Alison Mutler studied Romanian literature and language at the University of London and graduated in 1987. She first reported from Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova before communism ended, and was in Romania, working for British television station ITV during the 1989 anti-communist revolt. She moved to Romania in 1991 and joined the Associated Press which she left last year after 25 years. She has been president of the now defunct Foreign Press Association. She is now a correspondent for Romanian startup news site, universul.net. She occasionally freelances for Coda Story and Radio Free Europe among others.
Ovidiu Vanghele started his career in 2002 at MEDIAFAX Agency. During his ten years in the press agency he gradually became interested in more detailed subjects, closer to investigative journalism. He then joined the Pro TV news team. Less than a year later, he chose to leave mainstream media, founding the Center for Investigative Media, the entity he heads ever since. In the last seven years, Ovidiu published several press investigations tracing millions of euro spent pointlessly, illegally or simply stolen. His best known investigations focused on the abuses from mental health centers, the Romanian Academy monetary frauds, the National Railway Company’s contracts. Most of these also became judiciary investigations. He has spent almost the entire 2016 documenting, together with Ana Poenariu (Rise Project), the series “Toți oamenii generalului”, tracking the personal and financial development of Gabriel Oprea. In 2017, together with Vlad Stoicescu (dela0.ro), he set up a journalism platform aimed to better understand the relationship between the Churches in Romania and state institutions. Funded by its readers, the online project “Let there be light!” is, to many, an example of how journalism can survive in these tough times. He also teaches journalism at the University of Bucharest.
Prof Carol Căpiță graduated from the University of Bucharest, Faculty of History-Philosophy, in 1988. After a brief period as a Secondary School teacher (both in rural and urban schools), he became a staff member of his alma mater since 1990. He holds a PhD in Ancient History and a PhD in Educational Sciences. His interests (in the field of Education) lie in the area of curriculum development, the use of sources in History teaching, and the initial teacher training of History teachers. He published a number of articles on the Didactics of History, as well as being co-author (with Laura Căpiţă) of two books on the Didactics of History, various teaching materials for the initial and continuing teacher training, and several History textbooks. He worked as an independent expert with the Council of Europe for the last 16 years.
Dr Raul Cârstocea is a lecturer in Twentieth-Century European History at Maynooth University, Ireland. He has previously worked as a lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Leicester, as a lecturer in European Studies at Europa Universität Flensburg, as a senior research associate at the European Centre for Minority Issues, and as a teaching fellow at University College London. He has held research fellowships at the Imre Kértesz Kolleg Jena, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam, and at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies. His research interests focus on antisemitism, Jewish history, nationalism, fascism, and the Holocaust, and more broadly on state formation and nation-building processes in the XIX and XX century Central and Eastern Europe and their consequences for minority groups. He has co-edited with Éva Kovács a volume entitled “Modern Antisemitism in the Peripheries: Europe and its Colonies, 1880-1945” (Vienna, 2019) and has published extensively on the history of antisemitism, fascism, and the Holocaust in Romania and, more broadly, Eastern Europe. He is co-editor with Paul Jackson of the “Modern History of Politics and Violence” book series at Bloomsbury Academic, and a member of the editorial board of the academic journal S:I.M.O.N. Shoah: Interventions. Methods. Documentation. He is also Vice-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe at the Council of Europe.
Prof. Dr. Adriana Băban is Professor of Health Psychology, Behavioral Medicine & Psychosomatic, and Qualitative Research Methods. Her research interests include health behaviours, abuse and trauma, vaccination, screening, reproductive health, quality of care and patient satisfaction. She has published more than 160 papers, books, chapters in international and national journals. She is the coordinator of Health Psychology Research Lab, and has been director and researcher for more than 40 international and national research grants on health topics. In 2014 she was awarded with the title of Fellow of European Society of Health Psychology for outstanding contributions to the development of health psychology in Europe.
Vlad Stoicescu is the editor of Dela0.ro and co-host of Judecata de Acum (a weekly video podcast on current affairs). He began his journalistic career in 2008 at Evenimentul Zilei as a features reporter. After three years in the daily’s newsroom, he co-founded Dela0, one of the first Romanian independent media outlets. Vlad was the “Young Journalist of the Year” in 2011, a distinction awarded by Freedom House Romania. He is also a multiple finalist at the Superscrieri prizes (a longform competition that awards the best pieces of Romanian journalism in a given year). He has won awards in 2012, 2015, 2020 and 2021 for his work. A former fellow of the Robert Bosch Foundation, Vlad is also the co-editor of Să fie lumină (Let there be light), a crowdfunded media project launched in 2017 by a group of journalists aiming to investigate state-church relations in Romania. The project was awarded the 2019 Jury Prize at Superscrieri. In 2018, Vlad co-authored a handbook for investigative journalists, published by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Center for Independent Journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of Bucharest.
Andreea Rusu is the executive director of FILIA Center, one of the most active and old feminist NGOs in Romania. FILIA Center makes women’s voices be heard through community work and advocacy, activism and research. For the last six years, Andreea identified herself as a feminist and after graduating the Political Science Faculty, she has been working in the field of gender equality, with a focus on women’s safety. In the last three years, she coordinated 5 large-scale projects, in partnership with central or local authorities, European organizations and Embassies as well as her team’s work in improving women’s access to reproductive health and safety.
Alina Preda is Associate Professor at Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Her research interests include Syntax and Discourse Analysis, Gender Studies, Contemporary English Literature and Comparative Religious Studies. Dr Preda is the author of various articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals such as Philobiblon – Transylvanian Journal of Multidiciplinary Research in Humanities, Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory, Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai, and of several books, including Jeanette Winterson and the Metamorphoses of Literary Writing (2010), A Synoptic Outline of Phrasal Syntax and Clausal Syntax and Interferences: On Gender and Genre (2013).
Radu-Bogdan Albu-Comănescu has PhD in History and is Assistant Professor within the Department of European Integration at the Faculty of European Studies, the Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Teaches “EU Governance and Theories of European Integration”, “European and International Negotiations” and “Cultural Heritage Management”. Member of the Ratiu Forum LSE Advisory Board; Visegrad Insight Fellow ; former “Titulescu” scholar of the Romanian government. His fields of research and interest extend to the history of Europe; history of political and religious thinking; cultural, economic and public diplomacy, as well as governance, state-building and networks of power. Active in various NGOs and think-tanks dedicated to public policies.
Filip-Lucian Iorga has a PhD in History at University of Bucharest, Romania, and is Assistant Professor at the same institution, within the Faculty of Letters, the Cultural Studies Department. He also holds a degree from the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne and the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris. He worked as an expert for the Romanian Cultural Institute and for the Romanian Ministry of Education, at the European Affairs Department. He was a director of the Memory of the Romanian Exile Department at the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile, 2013, and general director at the Romanian Cultural Institute (2018-2020). Interested in: the memory of Romania’s political elites during the monarchy and their social-cultural profile.
The EDDA Center at the University of Iceland, which was established in 2009, is an interdisciplinary research centre in critical contemporary research, with an emphasis on (in)equality and difference; societal and political ruptures; the welfare state; and security and development. EDDA’s goal is to influence public policy and societal debates, especially in the fields of gender equality, social policies, participatory democracy, foreign security and development policies. The Centre awards research grants, hosts visiting scholars, and organizes academic conferences, while its research activities have led to a number of international publications.
The University of Iceland, which is located in Reykjavik, is the leading higher education institution in the country, offering undergraduates and postgraduate degrees in all major academic disciplines. 16,000 students are currently enrolled at the university, including 1,500 international students. The University includes five schools and 26 faculties, and it offers over 400 study programs. It collaborates with over 500 universities worldwide, promotes Icelandic culture and history, prioritizes sustainability and diversity, and places an emphasis on international and interdisciplinary collaboration in teaching and research.
The Rațiu Democracy Centre was established in 2004 in Turda, Romania, with the support of the Rațiu Family Charitable Foundation, to maintain, analyse and explore our commitment to democratic values and to honour the significant legacy of Ion Rațiu (1917-2000), today a still widely respected politician who returned to Romania in 1990 after 50 years in exile to support the restoration of a free parliamentary democracy after 47 years of communism.
The Babeș-Bolyai University is a public research university in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, with a long academic tradition starting in 1581 by Universitas Claudiopolitana, founded by King Stefan Bathory of Poland, former Prince of Transylvania. It occupies the first position in the university metaranking of the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research, being an “advanced research and education” institution. It is one of the five members of the Universitaria Consortium, which is a group of elite Romanian universities, a member of EUTOPIA, a European alliance of ten universities, as well as a five-stars university, based on the Quacquarelli Symonds evaluation for global ranking. With 21 faculties and 45,000 students, it offers study programmes in Romanian, Hungarian, German, English and French, according to its Charter, which is based on multiculturalism and multilingualism.