THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY: TRANSYLVANIAN SAXONS IN SOCIALIST ROMANIA
Humanistic methods of interpretive anthropology are used to analyze the present situation of one Eastern European ethnic group, the "Saxon" Germans of Transylvania in Romania. Internal critique of Saxon culture, Romanian socialism and western society reveals common concerns with concepts of East and West; freedom and loyalty; German identity; and family and ethnic group solidarity, but different concepts of the individual and society. Material context and historical perspective are brought to bear, revealing unintended consequences of purposeful actions and profound contradictions within the ethnic group.
Rewriting of history is explored as historical and political process; also, the management of multiple loyalties and their inherent contradictions. Ethnic group formation through Renaissance and Reformation in the sixteenth century is examined as well. Consequences of incorporation into imperial relations, including the liberal response in the nineteenth century, are discussed. The rise of Hungarian and Romanian nationalism in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and the Saxon response of economic and political gravitation towards Germany set the stage for twentieth century conflicts, and the confusion that arises concerning Saxon political identity. A grave consequence of nationalism and war was the separation of Saxon families, with some members residing in Western Europe, and some at home in Romania at the end of World War II.
Saxon participation in socialist development is examined, especially as it has proceeded in Marienburg (Romanian: Feldioara) in Brasov county. The ethnic community is observed to be in the contradictory situation of demographic disruption combined with residential stability of the remnant population during the industrialization process of the post war years, during which Marienburg has been transformed from a peasant village to a worker-peasant town.
Elderly Saxons, working parents and children are observed to be influenced in different ways by the transition to socialism and by images of the West that come to them through visiting western relatives. The role of intellectuals in both maintaining and transforming the ethnic group in the socialist context is explored.
Finally, the emigration process is examined in the context of relations of detente between Romania and the West, and is observed to contain all the conflicts outlined in preceding chapters. Solidarity is the keystone of Saxon culture; but family and group solidarity becomes impossible to achieve when relatives in both the West and in Romania invoke solidarity as a reason to stay or to leave, respectively. Tolerance and harmony are concepts of Saxon culture meant to guide interethnic relations, but both are eroded in the context of a divided Europe.