Objectives

The main question that guides the research agenda of this project is the following: what does it mean to be middle class in postsocialist Romania? This question allows for the possibility of capturing the answers of different classed subjects, middle class or not.

The project has the following objectives:

  • analysing how middle classness is articulated in and through different material projects of class distinction
  • exploring local specificities of middle classness
  • investigating the impact of status inconsistency on people’s conceptualization and experience of middle classness

This project is divided into five complementary sub-projects. Each of them focuses on a particular genre of material culture that defines belonging to middle class and distinction from other classes and, simultaneously, constitutes and legitimises middle classness.

Project 1 (PI, Craciun): Middle classness and dress

This project builds on the potential of dress to construct classed subjects and materialise class distinction (e.g. Schneider 1994, Liechty 2003). Clothes are among our most intimate possessions. Situated at the periphery of the body, clothes simultaneously touch it and face outwards to others. Through their very form, qualities, and practical capacities, they constitute persons and social relations (Küchler and Miller 2005). The project investigates the construction and display of middle classness through dress. More specifically, it looks at what is considered the appropriate dress for the middle class person, female or male, in terms of fabrics, cuts, colours, models, styles, fashionability, brands as well as size and composition of the wardrobe in relation to middle class professions and lifestyles. Attention is also paid to sources of inspiration for defining and assembling an appropriate wardrobe for a middle class life.

Project 2 (PD1, Stroe): Middle classness and food

This project builds on the potential of food to construct classed subjects and materialise class distinction (e.g. Goody 1982, Bourdieu 1984, Naccarato and LeBesco 2012). Food is an ephemeral type of material culture, also related to the objects used to store, prepare, serve and eat it. Food brings together or separates people along a multitude of boundaries, from sensorial to ethnic, class and national frontiers (Wilk 2012, Stroe and Iancu 2011). The project investigates the construction and display of middle classness through food. More specifically, it investigates patterns of food production and consumption at home. It explores what types of food, manners of presenting food and places of eating are considered appropriate for a middle class person. It studies the emergence of class-based forms of commensality. Attention is also paid to sources of inspiration for selecting the appropriate food and the appropriate material culture of food for a middle class life.

Project 3 (PD2, Iancu): Middle classness and single-family detached houses

This project starts from the empirical observation that one of the most striking transformations in postsocialist Romania is the emergence of suburban neighbourhoods of single-family detached houses (Văetiși 2011, Iancu 2011). A similar development was documented in other postsocialist societies (Fujii 2005, Fehervary 2009). The project investigates the construction and legitimation of middle classness through this type of house. More specifically, it explores the materialization of middle classness in preferences for particular architectural styles, choices of construction materials, colours, interior decoration, modalities of usage and the forms of sociality this type of house enables. Attention is also paid to sources of inspiration for selecting the appropriate material culture of the single-family detached house and its presentation as the appropriate form of housing for a middle class life.

Project 4 (PhD 1, Savu): Middle classness and the material culture of childhood

Drd. Savu’s research focuses on the experience of childhood in Bucharest, especially the experience of children who engage in extra-curricular activities. This project builds on the empirical observation that many of these children come from families of middle class background or who aspire to be middle class. The project investigates the affirmation of middle classness through the material possessions of these children (Ariès 1996, Schor 2006, O’Connor 2011). More specifically, it explores the range of objects, from clothes to school and extra-school accessories that these children have or are expected to have. It engages children as well as parents in conversations about what a child of middle class background prefers and should have and how she/he should behave. Attention is also paid to the ways in which children themselves contribute the creation of middle classness through their interaction with their peers.

Project 5 (PhD 2, Lipan): Middle classness and the material culture of compassion

Drd. Lipan’s research focuses on the social construction of compassion in present-day Romania. The theoretical framework and the comparative analysis of the conceptualization of compassion in different periods and various European societies demonstrate the strong link between the formation of the middle classes, charity work and cultivation of the sentiment of compassion (Sznaider 1998, Berlant 2004, Moore 2008, Redfield and Bornstein 2011). Middle classed persons, because of their social, cultural and economic capital, claimed moral authority over the working classed people and endeavoured to better their lives. This project explores the implication of individuals of middle class background or who aspire to be middle class in projects of compassion (e.g. donations, charity balls and corporate social responsibility campaigns). More specifically, it explores the donations and other material components in projects of compassion. It analyses processes of class distinction through the designation of certain objects as appropriate for the differently classed recipients of compassion.

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Principala intrebare care ghideaza agenda acestei cercetarii este urmatoarea : ce inseamna sa apartii clasei de mijloc in Romania postsocialista ? Aceasta intrebare permite posibilitatea capturarii de raspunsuri venind de la subiecti diferiti, apartinand clasei de mijloc sau nu.

Urmatoarele obiective de cercetare operationalizeaza aceasta agenda de cercetare :

  • Se va analiza cum ideea de clasa de mijloc (middle classness) este articulata in si prin diferite proiecte materiale de distinctie de clasa ;
  • Se va explora specificitatea locala a ideii de clasa de mijloc ;
  • Se va investiga impactul inconsistentei de status asupra conceptualizarii si experientei clasei de mijloc

Acest proiect va fi impartit in cinci sub-proiecte complementare. Fiecare sub-proiect se concentreaza pe cate un gen particular de cultura materiala care defineste apartenenta la clasa de mijloc, distingerea de alte clase si, in mod simultan, poate constitui si legitima ideea de clasa de mijloc (middle classness).

Proiect 1 (DP, Craciun): Ideea de clasa de mijloc si imbracamintea

Acest proiect are ca punct de plecare potentialul imbracamintii de a construi membrii unei clase si de a materializa distinctia de clasa (Schneider 1987, Liechty 2003). Situate la periferia corpului, hainele in acelasi timp ating corpul si sunt indreptate in afara, catre ceilalti. Prin insasi forma lor, a calitatilor si proprietatilor practice, hainele constituie persoane si relatii sociale (Küchler & Miller 2005). Acest proiect investigeaza construirea si exprimarea ideii de clasa de mijloc prin intermediul imbracamintii. Mai precis, se uita la ce este considerat a fi adecvat ca imbracaminte pentru o persoana care apartine clasei de mijloc, de gen feminin sau masculin. Aceasta adecvare poate fi pusa in termeni de materiale, croieli, culori, modele, stiluri, moda, marci, dar si marimea si compozitia garderobei in relatie cu profesiile si stilurile de viata ale clasei de mijloc. De asemenea, atentie va fi acordata si surselor de inspiratie in definirea si asamblarea unei garderobe adecvate pentru o viata de clasa de mijloc (de la stilul celor considerati a fi clasa de mijloc pana la mass media si social media).

Proiect 2 (PD1, Stroe) : Ideea de clasa de mijloc si mancarea

Acest proiect se construieste pe ideea potentialului mancarii de a construi membrii unei clase si de a materializa distinctia de clasa (ex. Goody 1982, Bourdieu 1984, Naccarato and LeBesco 2012). Mancarea este un tip efemer de cultura materiala, care se afla in legatura cu alte obiecte folosite pentru depozitarea, prepararea si mancarea propriu-zisa. Mancarea aproprie sau separa oamenii in funtie de o multitudine de frontiere, de la cele senzoriale la cele etnice, de clasa sau nationale (Wilk 2012, Stroe and Iancu 2011). Proiectul propus investigheaza contructia si exprimarea ideii de clasa de mijloc (middle classness) prin intermediul mancarii. Mai precis, se apleaca asupra modelor de producere a mancarii si de consum a acesteia acasa. Proiectul exploreaza ce tipuri de mancare, modalitati de prezentare a mancarii si locuri de consum al macarii sunt considerate a fi adecvate pentru o persoana apartinand clasei de mijloc. Studiaza aparitia formelor de clasa bazate pe comensalitate. Atentia este de asemenea indreptata catre sursele de inspiratie folosite pentru selectarea mancarii si a culturii materiale a mancarii considerate a fi adecvate pentru un stil de viata ce se frea a fi de clasa de mijloc.

Proiect 3 (PD2, Iancu) : Ideea de clasa si casele individuale familiale

Acest proiect pleaca de la observatia empirica conform careia una dintre cele mai frapante transformari in Romania postsocialista este aparitia unor cartiere sub-urbane formate din case familiale individuale. Un proces similar a fost documentat si in alte societati postsocialiste (Fujii 2005, Fehervary 2009, Văetiși 2011, Iancu 2011). Proiectul investigheaza constructia si legitimarea ideii de clasa de mijloc prin intermediul acestui tip de casa. Mai precis, exploreaza materializarea ideii de clasa de mijloc in preferintele pentru anumite stiluri arhitecturale, anumite materiale de constructie, anumite culori, decoratiuni interioare, modalitati de utilizare si forme de socializare ce sunt produse de acest tip de case. De asemenea, atentia va fi indreptata si catre sursele de inspiratie folosite pentru selectarea culturii materiale implicata de acest tip de casa si prezentarea acesteia ca forma de locuire adecvata pentru clasa de mijloc (ex. reviste, reclame, social media).

Proiect 4 (Drd1 Savu) : Ideea de clasa de mijloc si cultura materiala a copilariei

Cercetarea doctorandului Savu se concentreaza pe experienta copilariei in Bucuresti, in special a copiilor care participa la activitati extra-curiculare. Acest proiect are ca punct de plecare observatia empirica a faptului ca multi dintre acesti copii vin din familii cu care apartin sau aspira sa apartina clasei de mijloc. Proiectul propus aici investigheaza afirmarea ideii de clasa de mijloc (middle classness) prin intermediul posesiunilor materiale ale acestor copii (Ariès 1996, Schor 2006, O’Connor 2011). Mai precis, proiectul exploreaza gama de obiecte – de la imbracaminte pana la alte accesorii – pe care acesti copii le au sau se asteapta sa le aibe. Proiectul angajeaza atat copiii cat si parintii in conversatii despre ce prefera un copil apartinand clasei de mijloc, ce ar trebui sa aibe si cum ar trebui sa se comporte. De asemenea, proiectul se apleaca si asupra modurilor prin care copiii insisi contribuie la crearea ideii de clasa de mijloc prin interactiunile cu colegii lor.

Proiect 5 (Drd2, Lipan): Ideea de clasa de mijloc si cultura materiala a compasiunii

Cercetarea doctorandului Lipan se concentreaza pe constructia sociala a compasiunii in Romania contemporana. Cadrul teoretic si analiza comparativa a compasiunii in diferite perioade istorice si in diferite societati europene arata stransa legatura dintre formarea claselor de mijloc, munca de caritate si cultivarea sentimentului de compasiune (Sznaider 1998, Berlant 2004, Moore 2008, Redfield and Bornstein 2011). Persoanele apartinand clasei de mijloc, datorita capitalului social, cultural si economic detinut, au revendicat o autoritate morala asupra celor apartinand clasei muncitoare ce le-a permis angajarea in imbunatatirea vietii acestora. Acest proiect exploreaza implicarea persoanelor apartinand sau aspirand la clasa de mijloc in proiecte ale compasiunii (ex. donatii, baluri caritabile, campanii CSR – corporate social responsibility). Mai precis, investigheaza donatiile si alte componente materiale in proiectele de compasiune. Analizeaza procesele de distinctie de clasa prin desemnarea anumitor obiecte ca fiind adecvate pentru beneficiari ai compasiuni care ocupa pozitii de clasa diferite.

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