Maria-Alina Asavei is a Lecturer and Postdoctoral researcher in Russian and East European Department (Institute of International Studies, Charles University of Prague) and independent curator of contemporary art. She curated several international exhibitions of contemporary art and material culture. She received her PhD in 2013 from Central European University (Budapest) for a dissertation on “Political-Critical Art and the Aesthetic”. Asavei is a former honorary research fellow at City University of New York (CUNY) and at the American Research Center in Sofia (ARCS). Her research interests revolve around critical theory, art and transitional justice, cultural studies, aesthetics, ethnography, memory studies and forms of artistic engagement during and after totalitarian regimes.
Presented Lecture: “The Artistic Memory and Politics of the Forgotten Romani Holocaust”
It is not yet clear how to remember and commemorate the Roma and Sinti who perished under the Nazi regime. This difficulty is typically explained by invoking the view that it is not yet settled as to how to refer to the wide variety of Roma persecutions. At the same time, there is a widely accepted view that Roma lack a commemorative culture. Many studies emphasize that Roma’s memory culture is “peculiar” particularly because, unlike other communities, Romani people live in an “eternal present” in which there is no cult for the past and no interest for historical recording. By the same token, certain academic discourses posit that there is a lack of will to remember in Roma communities and this lack is explained by peculiar aspects of traditional Romani culture. The argument I aim put forth is that there is no such a thing as “Roma indifference to recollection” or “Roma as a people without history” but rather, the testimony about the traumatic past is silenced or obstructed by the lack of the infrastructure, the bureaucracy of the archives, and the strategic forgetting politics. To what extent can the memory work at the grass-roots level foster an active culture of remembrance, and how can art supplement this active remembrance? As my lecture will demonstrate some artists of Roma origin engage autonomously in a convoluted political and critical process of tracing the disappearance of their ancestors in concentration camps, attempting to find records in various archives and questioning the official politics of amnesia.
Selective List of Recent Publications:
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (forthcoming 2018). ‘The Art and Politics of Imagination: Remembering Mass Violence against Women’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy CRISPP [special issue ‘Violence and the Imagination: The Politics of Narrative and Representation’, editors: Mihaela Mihai and Mathias Thaler].
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (accepted for publication, forthcoming, 2018). ‘Cultural Memory and Political Resistance through Religious/Spiritual Art in (Post) Communist Romania’, in Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru and Dragos Manea (eds.), Remediation, Appropriations and Alternative Retellings of Religious Narratives in Contemporary World, Leiden: Brill.
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2017) “Call the Witness”: Romani Holocaust Related Art in Austria and Marika Schmiedt’s Will to Memory, Memory Studies (Sage), http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1750698017741929.
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2017) ‘Laughing for the State The Amateur Rural Comedy Brigades in the Vaslui County of Communist Romania in the 1970s and 1980s’, Studia Politica, XVII (3), pp. 337-356.
- Asavei, Maria-Alina, and Jiri Kocian (2017) ‘Gendered Histories/Memories of Labour in (Post-) Communist Romania and Former Czechoslovakia Illuminated through Artistic Production’, Analize: Journal of Gender and Feminist Studies, 8 (22), 9-37.
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2017) ‘Art and Religious Revitalisation Movements in Post-Communist Romania: the Zidarus ’Case’, Politics, Religion & Ideology, Vol.18 (2): 157-174, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21567689.2017.1327853
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2016). ‘Nicolae Ceausescu: between Vernacular Memory and Nostalgia’, Twentieth Century Communism: A Journal of International History, 11 (11): 27-42 [special issue ‘Memory and Nostalgia’, ed. Gavin Bowd].
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2016). ‘Art and “Madness”: Weapons of the Marginal during Socialism in Eastern Europe’, in Josie McLellan and Juliane Fürst (eds.), Dropping out of Socialism: the Creation of Alternative Spheres in the Soviet Bloc, Lanham: Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield, 63-83.
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2015). ‘Participatory Cultures of Remembrance: The Artistic Memory of the Communist Past in Romania and Bulgaria’, History of Communism in Europe, vol. 6, 209-230.
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2015). ‘Visual Chronicles from the Balkans and Central Europe: Samplers Remembered’, Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics, 9(2), 1-19.
- Asavei, Maria-Alina (2015). ‘Beauty and Critical Art: Is Beauty at Odds with Critical-Political Engagement?’, Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, vol. 7 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jac.v7.27720.