Interview with Katherine Verdery

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Yuxin Hou

Abstract

Katherine Verdery is the Julien J. Studley Faculty Scholar and a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Since 1973, she has conducted field research in Romania, initially emphasizing the political economy of social inequality, ethnic relations, and nationalism. With the changes of 1989, her work shifted to problems of the transformation of formerly socialist systems, specifically regarding changing property relations in agriculture. From 1993 to 2000, she conducted fieldwork on this subject in a Transylvanian community; the resulting book, The Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvania, was published by Cornell University Press (2003). She then completed a large collaborative project with Gail Kligman (UCLA) and a number of Romanian scholars on the opposite process: the formation of collective and state farms in Romania during the 1950’s. The resulting book, Peasants under Siege: The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962, was published by Princeton University Press (2011).

Professor Verdery’s teaching interests include contemporary and socialist Eastern Europe, and the anthropology of property, time and space. Her most recent project takes off from her Secret Police file, which she received from the Romanian government in 2008. Using it, she has written her field memoirs from the vantage point of the police who followed her. The book will be published in 2018 under the title My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File.

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