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Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru

Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Bucharest, specializing in Ethnic and African American literature and Postcolonial Studies. She has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Bucharest and a PhD in Postcolonial Literature from the University of East Anglia, UK. She is currently researching the area of intersection between diasporic postcolonial and postcommunist literature. Her main teaching interests are contemporary American Studies, diasporic literature in English, Romanian culture in the global age. Some of her recent publications are: Performance and Performativity in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English, Amsterdam: Rodopi; Cultura românească în perspectivă transatlantică.  Interviuri (Romanian Culture in Transatlantic Perspective: Interviews), co-edited with Teodora Serban-Oprescu, Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press, 2009; Identity Performance in Contemporary Non-WASP American Fiction, Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press, 2008.

Rhetorics of New Nationalism: The ‘Colectiv Revolution’ in the Romanian Media

On the night of October 30, 2015, a rock concert at Club Colectiv in Bucharest ended in an accidental fire that killed 60 people and left around 150 with serious injuries. The event was perceived as a national tragedy in Romania, with President Klaus Iohannis announcing three national mourning days. The local authorities were blamed for neglecting to make sure that basic safety measures were properly taken in Bucharest public indoor spaces. They were also criticized for the poor conditions in Romanian hospitals, where some of the victims died not from the burns, but from hospital-acquired infections.

This was the last straw to a growing wave of discontent with the government then in office, led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, with a Social Democratic Party majority. In a spectacular series of street manifestations ignited by the event – the so-called ‘Colectiv Revolution’ – the government, accused of gross neglect of the needs of the people, was asked to resign, which they did a month after the disaster. The new government was one of technocrats, as President Iohannis repeatedly stressed, led by Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș, with a liberal majority. When a Social Democratic Party majority in Parliament reappeared a year later, following the elections on November 11th 2017 and reflecting the current global return to nationalism (represented in Eastern Europe by the political left wing rather than the right), an important part of the Romanian public sphere, to the extent that it exists now, felt that the Colectiv victims had been betrayed.

This paper will analyse the interactions between the rhetorical constructions of the Colectiv disaster in the Romanian print and online media and the growth of a new rhetoric of nationalism that has accompanied the return to power of the Social Democratic Party in Romania. I will position my discussion in the context of the current rise of new waves of nationalism in Europe. I will engage in a dialogue with Noemi Marin’s work on the rhetorical constructions of postcommunism (2007 and 2015) and Bogdan Ștefănescu’s rhetorical approach to nationalist discourse in a comparative postcommunist/postcolonial perspective (2012) to suggest that violent linguistic response to disaster can significantly alter existing public views on nationalism and national identity.