TALES OF ROŞIA MONTANĂ.ORAL NARRATIVE TRADITIONS AND STORY-TELLERS FROM SOUTHERN APUSENI MOUNTAINS Ileana Benga “The Folklore Archive of the Romanian Academy”Institute, Cluj-Napoca
Motivation • Applying for this programme on teaching anthropology made twice a missionary tool from my work: once, for the fate of folklore studies in the academic panorama, and second, for the fate of the mountains in the area of Roşia Montană; i.e. the awkward position of practising ‘ethnologia militans’, in front of an almost unknown audience. • The missionary’s zeal was the first to fail. Translating folkloric relevance for anthropological understanding is wrong for a goal. Worse always possible: aiming to transform the folklorist in anthropologist. • What stands: especially since the teaching side of the field research means raising potential colleagues, the decision was that we should stay with what we know best: ‘collecting folklore’. • What we know best: collecting narratives; more specifically: narratives of oral tradition; memories, in one word.
Parti-pris • Dilemmas of choosing/assuming intellectual affiliation – always hard to pinpoint. • The meanings of ‘folklore’ assume different attributions inside different epistemic traditions. Unfortunately, what has become homonymy lately is taken abusively for identity. • Folklore (En), folklore/folclore (It), folklor (up to WWII-Ro) designates the object of the research, not the technique of researching (such as anthropology, e.g.); the technique about folklore is ‘folklore studies’, Ro: ‘studii de/în folclor, studii folkloristice’.
Who is folklorist? • Perhaps the one that studies folklore? Is ‘folklore’ the correct unitary concept, regardless of the society we apply it to? Does it designate just any kind of popular tradition, be it more or less orally transmitted? (suggestions always welcome) • My only mark, so far: Mircea Eliade’s technical term of‘culturi folklorice’(folkloric cultures). His meaning is precise and rather narrow: it assembles societies who share sameness in the following traits: rurality, oral traditions, temporal layer of existence, potential and often proven continuum inter se. For example, we may speak of folkloric cultures for the Classic Antiquity, we may speak of the European/south-eastern European/Romanian folkloric culture(s) etc.
Who is ‘folclorist’? • If other scientific traditions could maintain their meaning for ‘folklore’, good for them. Ours, the Romanian, was not that lucky. • After WWII, the soviet format for our intellectual performance was THE way, with no real options to make. Hence the exclusive philological trend in interpreting folkloric facts: ‘popular literature’, ‘new folklore’ – i.e. highly praising the golden socialist achievements and their acculturating impact on very much conservative peasant minds – made for decades the core of folkloric studies. Folklore as literature was the refuge, and the cover for any other insight. • It is the same ideological background that brings ‘folclor’ in the linguistic usage of peasants:
Indeed? • Peasants themselves received the foreign word via ideologically-manipulated festivalry: ‘Cântarea României’, in between scar and dear memory for most of us. (so that nowadays, when we introduce ourselves as coming from the Institute of Folklore, what we get is the splendid metathesis: ‘Aha!... Institutul de Floclor... Acolo faceti servici, săracii! Asta-i cu Marioara Murărescu, nu?...’) • Surprisingly, ‘we’, the folklorists/folcloriştii, have become post-socialist avant-la-lettre, following an inner epistemological need for width. • Surprisingly, the ones to get stuck in analysing new folklore and easy festivalry and to deny existence to oral transmission under socialism are anthropologists.
Professional maladies • ‘Our’ (folkloric) sinful assumption: that we have reachable temporal kindred: the quest for origins, that is, for distinctive ancestors. • ‘Their’ (anthropological) sinful assumption: that we have reachable spatial kindred: the quest for uniformity, that is, for common ancestorship. • Unilaterality condamns both endeavours to be stranded: we cannot afford to ignore, as it suits us on the moment, that both time and space are continuum, and yet series of fractures, at the same time. • Small folkloric personal satisfaction: much healthier anthropology looks at human dramas – like the destruction in Roşia Montană – as we look at myths: with no emotional involvement, with placid contemplation. This is healthily coded as ‘objectivism’.
Maceration from top to bottom: the mountain in Roşia • The mountain (four of them, actually) in Roşia Montană means: - the pseudo-urban, once multi-ethnic, community; - the surrounding village communities, economically dependant on the old mining; - the old galleries and surrounding old settlements, archaeologically available (beginning with pre-Roman kilometers of galleries; continuing with one of the most important urban settlements of the Roman province, with its unique, in the Roman world, net of galleries, unique ensemble of temples, unique necropolis; and with late mines, from Austrians on); - the mountain itself: a sanatorium scenery, for varied ailments,such as depression, greed, & many more, - gold and adjacent precious ores.
The Threat • TheCanadian company Gabriel Resources, owned by a former Romanian, bought from the Romanian state the right to exploit gold in Roşia and in the surrounding mountains with cyanides. • They began to buy land and houses and churches and cemeteries with higher prices than normal; they offered resettlement in two variants: a new Roşia on a neighbouring hill, or money to leave indistinctively; even so, after having bought everything that was for sale, about one third of the population refuses to leave and continues the stand. • Time for civil solidarity; some were bought, some were not. See attitudes: Mass Media/Romanian Academy/Fânfest. • Pressure grows: all means are used to chase Roşia from history. Aggressive terms for the combat (saliently mediatic).
The Stand • Locals that found they had what to stand for; the association Alburnus Maior; imported enthusiasm welcome, intelligently used. • Academics that found they have what to defend: archaeological, historical patrimony; natural and human ecology; the longer-term economic Romanian interest. • From our niche: the school-field research tried at first anthropological ‘objectivism’- and it seemed to work, with discourse analysis of the parties involved; it seemed to work with reading Roşia as community, to be dismantled and recomposed elsewhere, with logical consequences impending on local specificities. But we were blocked in front of the sight of what was termed as ‘costs and benefits of resettlement’: folkloric blindness, afflicting any possible benefit foresight.
Home to Folklore • Impossible to continue an empty investigation; therefore we were happy to return to our living narratives: orally transmitted, circulated in every single canonical folkloric variant; transgressing geographical area boundaries and speaking of living local narrative traditions. To portraits of powerful local story-tellers, linking instinctively folkloric items more coherently than the most skilled interview technique. • And so gold became for us the tale of gold, the tale of buried treasures in ancient times, of curses upon the unworthy digger, of privileged encounters with local daemons and fairies and tricksters, all available to the insider alone. We could touch the tale. Gold and silver are here today, are here for so long, but for how long yet? They gradually cease being the core of things.
...better than silver and gold... • The Tales of Roşia Montană are the only form of salvage we may attempt. Collect them, as accurately as we can, store them on a proper archive shelf, and access them once in a while for what they are: our only memory about a lost world. • ... And keep your fingers crossed for the last standing campaign, to last alive as long as possible. It is called M I N D B O M B.