Nothing in Soviet-style communism was as shrouded in mystery as its secret police. Its paid employees were known to few and their actual numbers remain uncertain. Its informers and collaborators operated clandestinely under pseudonyms and met their officers in secret locations. Its files were inaccessible, even to most party members. The people the secret police recruited or interrogated were threatened so effectively that some never told even their spouses, and many have held their tongues to this day, long after the regimes fell.
With the end of communism, Romania among other newly established “democracies” opened its secret police archives. From those files, as well as personal memories, the author has carried out historical ethnography of the Romanian Securitate. This talk will emphasize the surveillance practices most commonly used, in particular the recruitment of informers.
Katherine Verdery is the Julien J. Studley Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has conducted fieldwork primarily in Romania, on ethnic and national identity, the workings of socialism and the transition from it, the state, and property transformation. Her books include: Transylvanian Villagers (California, 1983), National Ideology Under Socialism (California, 1991), What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton, 1996), The Political Lives of Dead Bodies (Columbia, 1999), The Vanishing Hectare (Cornell, 2003), and Peasants under Siege (Princeton, 2011, with Gail Kligman). Currently she is writing a field memoir, based on her Romanian Secret Police file.
Sponsors: Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; Center for European Studies; Department of Anthropology; Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies