A Stitch in Time: Searching for Authenticity through Shifting Regimes of Value in Romania

Urdea, Alexandra. 2015. A Stitch in Time: Searching for Authenticity through Shifting Regimes of Value in Romania. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis deals with the role that material culture plays in the production of value and meaning through discourses of authenticity. It also follows how folk objects are mobilized in national ideologies, transmissions of personal and family memory, museological discourses and artistic acts. My research is centred around a collection of Romanian artefacts which travelled from Romania to the Horniman Museum in London in 1956. The project that I undertook was devised as a collaborative research project between Goldsmiths College and the Horniman Museum, in which two PhD researchers carried out a recontextualization of this collection. The objects had been collected from villages and other sources in the 1950s (a context of political and social change in Romania), then assembled into a collection and sent over to the Horniman Museum. My side of the project sought to bring out historical trajectories and the social life of material culture in the villages where the Horniman objects originated, and beyond. The objects on which my research focused, which I considered to be the counterparts of the ones stored at the Horniman, revealed a complex usage of the folk idiom and of material culture in Romania, expressed through debates around value, authenticity and history.

My thesis is firstly concerned with the movement of things between different regimes of value, mapping out a network of spaces of cultural production where the folk idiom is relevant in Romania. The people I involved in my research continuously pointed out that the truly valuable thing I was seeking – the ‘authentic’ object – was to be found elsewhere. This promise of an ‘elsewhere’ has kept pushing my research further along: from one village to another; from village houses to the houses of culture, and then to museums; and from live folk performances to national television. The other concern of this thesis is with the places and moments where the circulation of objects is halted because their value is put into question. In the process, I reveal how people deal with the absence of what they define as ‘authentic’ objects. They either identify this absence as loss, and sometimes explain it through historical narratives and memories; at other times they alleviate it through performance. These different strategies entail different relationships with material culture, which I conceptualize as relationships between subject and object.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



museums, authenticity, cultural production, folklore, memory

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 July 2015

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Date Deposited:

07 Aug 2015 09:09

Last Modified:

14 Sep 2022 09:16



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