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Title: BLOCUL - an ethnography of a Romanian block of flats
Author: Salaru, Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 6731
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Based on a long-term ethnography inside a block of flats in Piatra-Neamt, Romania, this thesis explores how individuals, through everyday creative engagements with their apartments, try to come to terms with the uncertainties of a rapidly changing society - one caught between the vulnerabilities of both socialism and capitalism. It examines the inhabitants' capacity for self-organization, with a focus on the daily life of a block administrator overseeing the maintenance and repair of his ageing building. By paying close attention to a range of infrastructural elements often taken for granted - from water taps and boilers, to balconies and windows - my research offers new insights into how people negotiate complex relationships of trust and suspicion in the light of degrading infrastructure. Within the context of increasingly decentralized resources, I also demonstrate various difficulties involved in sustaining day-to-day practices of energy-saving, and discuss the block inhabitants' multifaceted understanding of the 'common good'. Finally, I emphasize how apartment renovations are fuelled by motivations that are at once aesthetic and functional, and thus problematize the distinction between these two categories that has dominated anthropological studies of the built environment to this day. My thesis contrasts the well-established literature about the home - that pays attention to aesthetics and identity at the micro-scale of the domestic space - with recent studies about infrastructure that typically examine macro-scale, functional reasons for urban transformations. Overall, I argue for a more prominent role for the study of home infrastructures in anthropology, while also contributing to debates about housing and energy policies.
Supervisor: Daniels, Inge Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethnology ; Urban anthropology ; Postsocialism ; Visual methods