Community Networks and Cultural Practices in Twentieth-Century Romania: Paper-Based Cultures in the Writings of a Catholic Priest presents an anthropological interpretation of 2,400 documents left behind by a Hungarianized Swabian Catholic priest living in Romania during one of the Eastern European dictatorships of the twentieth century. This book addresses what the pre-digital paper-based culture was like in Eastern Europe from the point of view of the protagonist, a Catholic priest, who lived in a predominantly Orthodox country. The author calls the twentieth century the era of the typewriter. Mária Szikszai’s questions refer to both the epoch and the micro-universe of these people. What was the world like in which the protagonist and the other people he was in contact with lived? How did they live their daily lives? How did they make important decisions? What pains, hopes, and joys did they have? What did they have to say and what were they silent about? This volume presents an anthropological incursion into the life of an Eastern European man who lived almost throughout the twentieth century, during which time he tried to document the era he was living in.
Mária Szikszai teaches in the Department of Hungarian Ethnography and Anthropology at the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca.
1. The Research
3. Ethnic and National Identity
4. Remembrance as a Cultural Construction Site
5. The Strangeness of the Anthropologist
6. The Correspondence
8. The Bygone World
9. Closing Remarks on What We Will Never Know
About the Author
For two hundred years, the social sciences have been writing about how people live, work, enjoy, and suffer in different times and circumstances. This is what Mária Szikszai did when she created the world of her book using a unique process, based on a single person’s archive of letters, memos, official documents, and photographs. The earliest document dates from 1937, the latest from 1997. What was this period like in Romania and in the region of Central and Eastern Europe in general? In this world, people with whom the priest Mihály Tyukodi had direct or indirect contact from history come to life, and the feelings and thoughts that preoccupied and influenced them, that they spoke and wrote about, emerge. Mária Szikszai’s book is a microhistory written with methodological consistency, sensitive problematization, and nuanced language. This book exposes the diverse functions of writing, the organization of the private world, and the development and role of the network of relationships.
Szikszai’s book is special for several reasons. One of its peculiarities is the sheer volume of written documents she examines: more than 2,400 documents, of which she provides an anthropological interpretation. The special situation of this book’s protagonist also makes the story unique. This book’s protagonist is an Eastern European Catholic priest who lived through the twentieth century, world wars, and political regime changes, including the Romanian dictatorship. Szikszai has used the information in the documents to create a fascinating story about the individual who took the notes.
This book offers a lot of interesting data for anthropologists and historians. An impressive number of written documents are examined. Szikszai’s experience on the study of minorities from Romania contribute here to the success of the professional presentation of an exciting correspondence of a very controversial period of history reflected through the life of an Eastern European man who lived almost throughout the twentieth century.