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In the past weeks I had different intense experiences that could have been great individual posts if I would have been able to put them in words. I wanted to but I couldn’t compress what I found out, thought and felt in a presentable way.  I manage to absorb them and come to peace with them in a way that is a combination of thoughts and feelings. The percentage differ depending on the topic.

First I went to the Community as Intellectual Space conference. I heard a lot about the Puerto Rican community in Paseo Boricua in Chicago because the Community Informatics is its partner for some time now. I was very impressed by the project put into practice by local activist and GSLIS students. However, I could not accept the nationalist extremism of some of the behaviours. It might be because of the nationalistic education that I was given that makes me sensitive to nationalistic instigation…but I don’t believe in nationalities are self sufficient for keeping together communities. And it was interesting because even some of the speakers were actually talking about how minority communities need to learn to be themselves and, in the same time, be aware of the others. Dr. Carol Lee had a wonderful metaphore of the box: if you are a minority (cultural, ethnic) you are said to be from a box with a label of your culture. Often, people in these communities start to feel like they are really in a box and instead of growing normally they strive to raise their head above the (nonexistent) box. There was also people reffering to the mirror-window metaphor for communities: they need to learn about themselves but, in the same time, open the window to other cultures and communities.

The second event was a conference Interpreting Emotion in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Eurasia where I attended the last session. There were two presentations that I was interested in but I enjoyed all of them. Carol Silverman presented “Music, Emotion, and the ‘Other’: Balkan Roma and the Negotiation of Exoticism” where I found, among others, how nowadays (!) managers still think that Roma musicians look better for the public if their clothes are very used or torn.  Jack Friedman in “Histrionic Citizens and Emotional Entitlements: The Emotional Lives of Romania’s Downwardly Mobile” a very interesting article about miners. For me It was the first time that I start to  think about them as a community, especially communities of miners where there were massive layoffs…Friedman also talked about how the upwardly mobile communities are so ashamed of the other communities that “cannot adapt”, “cannot keep up with the rest” that are willing to treat them as mentally sick. I was presented with a face of Romania that I did not know or guess but which makes perfect sense… unfortunately.  I also loved  Judith Pintar‘s presentation “Sheltering Stone and Bits of Bone: Collective Emotion and the Built Environment in Dubrovnik”.  This historic city, Dubrovnik, was during history part of the Byzantine Empire, Venice, Hungaro-Croatian Empire, Yugoslavia and now Croatia. More that 300 years it was independent and during that time, at one point people from the community were governing the city for a month at a time, taking turns.  People of Dubrovnik were presented as a community very attached to its city. A map that presented the damages suffered by the city in 1991-1992 when it was attached by the Yugoslavian army, Serbs and Muntenegrenians does not even mention the human loses, only the buildings…The sad conclusion of the presentation was that, even though the community there survived so many invasions and administrations it will most probably not survive the capitalism. The local voices are not important anymore…

There were also some news from Romania that made me very sad. And a news from a friend of mine that had the guts to write down his own arguments (and not repeat his professors) on a final test and did not past it. This is a perfect example of “good old Romanian school”.

[Photo credit CC]

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It’s so simple and powerful yet it eludes us so often…

The phrase “Building community” had a negative connotation for me before starting the Master program at GSLIS. Even though I had always been interested in the ways people communicate, share and develop together I could not identify active communities with which I intersected during growing up. In school or in my neighborhood the personal networks were as close as I got to being part of a community. For a long time I thought that it was a personal inability that prevented me from becoming a part of the bigger networks that, for me resembled the idea of community. During my research I discovered, though, that Romanian communities and their ability to develop were seriously affected by the long Communist regime and their take on social structure. Communist communities were social networks with mercantile interests and people’s social status was the one deciding their ability to fit into the “community”.

Nowadays Romanian society feels the need to learn about building its communities but so far the methods used have been either European recipes or the same methods used during Communism. People seem to have lost interest in being part of a community altogether(Just take a look at the local elections…).

While studying here I discovered how important investing in a community can be, how to try do it better…and I want to take this home with, me to put it to good use. Sometimes I see ways of doing just that. However I often see and hear about same old networks and I fear them. Librarians that I am trying to convince to open up the programs, in their libraries, to just anybody in the community, already have a network that they serve and don’t even conceive community as something more than this network…

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