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Folk models of the social in a Romanian village

Umbres, R.G.; (2012) Folk models of the social in a Romanian village. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis analyses the social mechanisms of cooperation and trust versus competition and mistrust starting from the representations of morality in social relationships in a Romanian village. I argue that people in Sateni make a moral distinction between two social spheres. Social relationships within a private sphere of consociates are defined by moral commitments to mutuality and shared interests. Social intercourse outside this personal sphere follows an ethic of competitive individualism and personal liability. I argue that this model of a folk theory of the social is an analytical tool which can help us explore the dynamics of kinship, political and economic practices and public performances of the self. The contractual nature of social relationships is explored in cultural representations and practices of ―making kin‖, ―holding on to kin‖ and transforming friendship into ritual kinship. I argue that participation in or rejection of social relationships involves an explicit intentionality which creates or breaks moral contracts of axiomatic amity. Against the background of structural tensions and opportunities concerning social resources, moral ties are created and erased from memory and from social practices.The symbolic unity of consociates and respectively opposition to ―others‖are performed and reproduced from the inner space of the household to the public sphere of the cemetery, from conspicuous sociality to secrecy and mistrust. I analyse the performative nature of action and communication in funeral rituals and tavern interactions as ethnographic windows of studying the interplay of moral contracts and individualist responsibility. A study of electoral rivalry and the ―privatisation‖ of local governance reveals a structure of political power that sanctions use of public resources by officials, while dissent is restrained by opportunism and lack of collective interests. Finally, I explore a master-builder‘s achievements and difficulties in reshaping the social division of labour. I argue that moral contracts insure trust and alleviate uncertainty during the social and material construction of houses. The thesis concludes with a critique of gift-commodity oppositions, and speculatively suggests, building upon the ethnographic material, that a reappraisal of Durkheim‘s perspective on social order and morality, drawing on the neo-Hobbesian theories of the social contract, would be productive.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Folk models of the social in a Romanian village
Language: English
Additional information: The author of this thesis can be contacted via: radu.umbres@gmail.com
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1352631
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