Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Over the last decade, Romania's IT industry has gained international attention, with the country boasting the continent’s fastest internet and a growth of startups and firms, particularly in deindustrializing postsocialist cities. Technology capital, real estate, and urban politics have been entangling in new ways, often resulting in increased rents around newly constructed IT office buildings, as well as racial dispossession. As property values and entrepreneurial culture boom, Roma residents are frequently pushed to peripheral wastelands, to interstitial spaces squeezed between the urban and rural. At the same time, anti-Communist protests known as the “Light Revolution,” largely designed by the IT sector, use technology to temporally distance the present from Romania’s “dark” socialist past. In doing so, they elide that socialist Romania in fact boasted rich technocultures, both formally and underground. They also fetishize the pre-socialist interbellum, which in Romania was marked by fascism and eugenics – other racial technologies. It was then that Bucharest was recognized as the Little Paris of the East, Timișoara as the Little Vienna, and so on. How do these past moments of aspirational comparativity relate to the updated “Little Silicon Valley,” and what do they index of the anticommunism enwrapped in contemporary capitalism? What does it mean that Silicon Valley has emerged as this new zero point of techno-urban aspiration? Here I suggest that new understandings of urban life and technological practice emerge when interrogating Silicon Valley’s centrality in analyses of techno-futurity, and that postsocialist Romania is apt place from which to study this.