Socialist fragments East and West: Towards a comparative anthropology of global (post-)socialism

Deakin, Robert and Nicolescu, Gabriela. 2022. Socialist fragments East and West: Towards a comparative anthropology of global (post-)socialism. Critique of Anthropology, 42(2), pp. 114-136. ISSN 0308-275X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article initiates a comparative anthropological analysis of the legacies and endurances of socialism in two different European contexts. It draws on ethnographic and historical material relating to the UK and Romania, 40 years after the first efforts to privatize central elements of the welfare state in the UK and 30 years after the collapse of state socialism in central and eastern Europe. Rather than restricting our analysis to the ‘East’ and the 20th century, as is often the case in the literature on post-socialism, we argue for the need to attend to socialism’s historical border-crossings as well as its persistence today as a set of practices and imaginaries which are not wedded to one historically existing state form. Through controversies around the demolition of council (public) housing estates in London and exploration of work practices in cooperatives of production in Romania this article illustrates such historical border-crossings, and comparatively analyses the contemporary curation of what we call ‘socialist fragments’ at both these sites.

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For Gabriela Nicolescu, the final stages for writing this article were supported by Disobedient Buildings Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council AH/ T000082/1. The research was supported by the Dinu Patriciu Foundation (Open Horizons Grant). For Robert Deakin, the research and writing were supported by a studentship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council AH/L503861/1.


Britain, cooperatives, council housing, curation, heritage, modernism, practice, redistribution, Romania, socialism

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23 November 2021Accepted
1 May 2022Published Online
June 2022Published

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03 May 2022 10:45

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25 May 2022 09:47

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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