PhD Oral Exam - Cristina Plamadeala, Humanities
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Working primarily with Securitate files, currently stored at the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS), located in Bucharest and Popesti-Leordeni, Romania, this thesis explains the various terror mechanisms the Securitate, Romania’s secret police during the country’s communist period, employed in order to gain recruits and employ them as part of its surveillance network. Although the thesis discusses the entire communist period in Romania, it places significant emphasis on the last two decades of communism (1965-89), when Nicolae Ceauşescu was in power. This thesis introduces and discusses the following two concepts— psuchegraphy and dossierveillance—described herein as two terror methods applied by the Securitate to obtain informers and compel them to collaborate.
The former mentioned concept entailed collecting biographical data Securitate’s targets that would give one sufficient clues about a person’s core beliefs, personality, character, and identity, all with the scope of getting to know that which Securitate referred to in its files as a person’s vulnerable points. This thesis shows that this kind of analysis was a precursor to recruitment of the members of the Securitate’s surveillance network. The latter aforemetioed method of terror stresses the role of technology and documentation in surveillance practices and their use for recruitment of informers and management of the population by maintaining it in a sense of dread and fear. The ‘dossier in dossierveillance, loosely defined in this chapter as the technology that the Securitate employed to place its targets under surveillance, represented one of the Securitate’s most effective “disciplinary” tools (Foucault 1975) through which it managed to instill fear in people. This thesis also describes the outcome of enforcing such mechanisms on a nation, amassing to a phenomenon described here as the banalization of evil, a term that builds on the work of Hannah Arendt on the banality of evil. Lastly, this thesis revists the subject of lustration and transitional justice and explores how the new scholarship discussed in the thesis may further contribute to understanding and treating the subject of collaboration in a post-communist context in Romania.