Monica Vasile

Monica Vasile
Maastricht University | UM · Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

PhD
Working on a history of reintroducing endangered species

About

34
Publications
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Introduction
Environmental historian and anthropologist. Current research focus on human-animal relations, reintroduction of species and rewilding. Also work on the political ecology of forests, commons and pastoral practices in the Carpathian Mountains. Currently i am doing my second PhD in Project Moving Animals, at University of Maaastricht and I am finishing a monograph entitled "The Forest Never Ends: timbermen, mafias and bison". twitter @monica_vasile / email i.vasile@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Publications

Publications (34)
Article
This article examines the transformations of the contemporary postsocialist forests of the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, focusing on contentious resource politics in the context of new dynamics of forest commodification. I argue that in the last decades the political forests of the Carpathians emerged as fiefdom forests, territories of intense dom...
Article
Concerns over deforestation are growing along with the climate crisis. This is particularly unsettling in relation to the rise of populist authoritarian regimes. In this article I reveal the connections between forests, neoliberalism, authoritarianism, and cronyism, through an in-depth ethnographic study of the Romanian Carpathian forests after the...
Article
This article examines the postsocialist timber rush in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, from the perspective of the frontier. Drawing on long-term anthropological fieldwork, it follows life-trajectories of timbermen and politicians to reveal the grassroots dynamics of timber production, trade relationships and political control of resource...
Article
This paper discusses new conservation practices in the Romanian Carpathians, focusing on the recent reintroduction of bison in the framework of larger rewilding initiatives. It reveals the complexities of rewilding on the ground, through an empirical study that captures different local narratives, reflecting on how they emerge relationally, articul...
Article
Full-text available
Environmental crisis narratives escalate around the world. Their production and consequences demand scholarly attention. Drawing on the analytical tools of political ecology and highlighting long-term historical developments, this article examines the shift to a new narrative of conservation in forestry, which displaces older structures of state fo...
Article
In this paper we show that formalizing communal rights is a process riddled with struggles leading to a partial or total grabbing of commons. Drawing on long-term research and using interviews, surveys, and historical sources, we analyze struggles that emerged from processes of formalizing rights to commons, occurring one century apart in the Carpa...
Article
Full-text available
Link: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/whp/eh In the age of the sixth extinction, human interventions to save endangered species have become bigger, bolder and costlier than ever. Yet, policies of species conservation have also favoured non-intervention, furthering the idea that humans have tampered too much with wildness and wilderness. Th...
Research
Full-text available
The purpose of this report is to describe forest and pasture commons of the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, which are territories of life owned and governed by local rural communities, potential ICCAs with historical roots. Coniferous and broadleaved forests of high conservation and commercial value, together with grasslands, alpine pastures and f...
Article
Full-text available
New feral and wildlife dynamics have emerged in the Carpathian Mountains after recent rewilding initiatives. Bison was reintroduced and a few of them were chased and eaten by feral dogs, offspring of stray dogs abandoned by humans. The article examines narratives surrounding feral dogs and bison, and shows how people’s imaginaries rank forest anima...
Article
Full-text available
A short story about my commons research journey in narrative tone, and about the commons and the forests themselves - in the Carpathian Mountains
Article
Using the case of forest and pasture commons in the Carpathian Mountains, this paper examines the emotional work carried out in institutions, in creating and changing rules, accessing resources, in leadership and contestation processes. The recent restitution of land commons in Romania has created possibilities for participation in the field of rel...
Article
Full-text available
The formal recognition of rights to the commons that occurred in the Carpathian Mountains since the 19th century has proved to be vital to their continued existence and recent post-socialist revival. However, in the course of history, the processes of formalization produced negative consequences: shrank the peasant entitlements to their land common...
Preprint
This paper discusses new conservation practices in the Romanian Carpathians, focusing on the recent reintroduction of bison. It reveals the complexities of rewilding on the ground, through an empirical study that captures different local narratives, reflecting on how they emerge relationally, articulated within larger social dynamics and structures...
Article
Based on a large array of sources, from ethnographic fieldwork to Internet discussion forums and archive surveys, this article traces complex gift-giving practices between godparents and godchildren, as they developed and thrived in the region of Transylvania, Romania, from the 1950s onward. I examine, in particular, the monetization of gifts in co...
Article
Full-text available
This introduction to the collection opens up the conversation between historians and anthropologists about the practical significance and social meaning of spiritual kinship. By discussing the key findings of five anthropological studies—in Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova—we point to resemblances and differences. We examine common st...
Article
The acceptance and support by those who live in and around the largest remaining wilderness of Europe is very important for the success of a planned network of designated wilderness areas. A standardised questionnaire was administered in person to 322 local residents in the South-Western Carpathians. A cluster analysis revealed two human–nature rel...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The paper gives a description of the forest and pasture commons in the Romanian Carpathians and focuses on how processes of property formalization, bureaucratization and financialization create distance between commoners and their commons in the context of cash economies. It analyses a rather extreme case from the northern area of Maramureș of a co...
Chapter
Full-text available
Focusing on weddings in a study an upland region recently integrated into the European Union, Monica Vasile takes us in chapter 5 to a village in the Apuseni Mountains of western Romania. Considered part of a poor, even “backward,” area through socialist times, the community she studied has experienced a remarkable spurt in wealth. The economy impr...
Chapter
Full-text available
The paper traces the transformation of local mountain economies of the Carpathians over the last century. It focuses on contemporary processes of household-based production and trade of timber and analyses in-depth practices of reciprocity and values of self-sufficiency of the timber traders who experienced new prosperity in the postsocialist years...
Chapter
Full-text available
This short chapter describes the land commons from Vrancea villages in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. It is shown that local commoners express remarkably strong support for obştea as a common property institution, which strengthens collective identity and purpose. Managing the forest is not all about calculations, economic performance, materi...
Article
Full-text available
The paper draws a typology of various forms of godparenthood across Romania, punctuated with case studies from different field sites. It shows that spiritual kinship is vivid and diverse in this part of the world, as opposed to its shrinking in Western Europe. Furthermore, godkinship proves to be a useful social and economic tool, through networkin...
Article
Full-text available
My intention in this article is to integrate different bodies of literature concerning common property in early Europe, as related to social structure, in order to understand the place of Henri H. Stahl's theses on 'Romania' in the writing of the social history of Europe.The work of the Henri H. Stahl focuses on demonstrating that early 'Romanian'...
Article
Full-text available
In Romania, 50% of the forests were privatized and a huge number of community-based institutions were established in the forest areas to manage resources communally (obsti, composesorate). In addition, a dense network of forestry institutions, such as private forestry districts (ocoale), began in early 2000s to work in rural Romania for managing an...
Article
The article provides an overview of property reforms in Romania with a focus on collective/community forests. We start by a macro analysis of the laws and their results in the distribution of community forests and a longue-durée description of the principal legal forms of collective forests, such as pãdure comunalã, obste and composesorat. Furtherm...
Article
Full-text available
The paper aims to bring into focus the issue of nature conservation in Romania and the response of local actors to top-down conservation policies. A type of conflict that arises at the fringe of Romanian protected areas, the conflict between collective owners of commons (obști) and national parks administration, will be taken as a research example....
Article
Full-text available
The system of collective property over forests that we find in Vrancea Region, obştea, has participation as fundamental principle. Each member of the obştea has the right to participate in the village assembly, in the voting process, equal right at the distribution of revenues. In this context, the sense of property that the members of the entitled...
Article
Full-text available
The paper explores the process of forest restitution in Romania, mainly of municipality forests (paduri comunale) and associative forests (obsti, composesorate). The first part offers a general overview, trying to grasp what happened all over Romania. The second part focuses on the Vrancea Region and describes the way in which community-based ins...
Article
Full-text available
The paper approaches the link between property norms, legal or customary ones, and local variables - community characteristics, population's practices, and management capacity - in the context of collective forest restitution in post socialist Romania. In addition, one of the challenges of the research is to come up with a clarification of the actu...
Article
"The papers we propose present the main issues regarding communal forest property in Vrancea Mountains of Romania, offering a broad overview of communal forest ownership system in the post socialist context. "We would like to give two distinct presentations, based on a single fieldwork, concerning one major subject, the forest commons in Vrancea Mo...
Article
Full-text available
"The paper brings into attention an already classical 'problem' of the commons, that of the free-rider, but in relatively new conceptual terms of corruption. I believe that recent theoretical developments on corruption from the field of social anthropology can shed light on various processes that community-based institutions confront in different a...

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Projects

Projects (6)
Project
"The Forest Never Ends: Timbermen, Mafias and Bison in the Postsocialist Carpathian Mountains" is my current book project, manuscript due October 2019. The monograph will be published as part of the RCC’s series on Environment in History: International Perspectives. It is built upon fifteen years of research. I draw on a large array of ethnographic and archival sources, including more than 300 collected oral histories. The book reveals the grassroots stories that shape the contemporary Carpathian forests, communities and personal life-worlds in the post-socialist period. It explores layers of interconnected human relationships and changing ecologies. The monograph takes the reader through different areas of the Carpathians and explores a large cast of characters, from timber barons to lumberjacks, from foresters to regional politicians. As an interdisciplinary project, it is situated at the confluence between anthropology, history and political ecology. The monograph will be the first in the field of environmental humanities dedicated exclusively to the Carpathian forests. The Romanian Carpathian Mountains have become an extractive resource frontier of Europe after the fall of socialism. Communities experienced boom and bust economies, while the forests were being restituted, logged, reforested, mapped, classified as ‘virgin’, or became sites of experimental rewilding. Grappling with legacies of socialism, with world-wide economic crises, or the rise of environmentalism - the post-socialist forests were shaped by continuous social and political struggles. The book is structured in three parts. The first part tells the story of ‘a moment of freedom’ in the aftermath of the fall of socialism. At this time, the mountain timbermen of the Carpathians started to log frantically, to process timber, and to carry large quantities of logs and timber towards unquenchable markets. I capture in this part a forest animated by people, by a frenzy of the free forests, and the lure of windfall gains, which enabled the timber entrepreneurs of the Carpathians to prosper. This experience of the free forests also developed a production-commodity way of looking at forests, which fitted well with an ingrained local belief that ‘forests never end’, meaning that whenever they are cut, forests will grow back even more forcefully, like hair. The second part moves to another location in the Carpathians and develops another way of animating the forest. This is the fiefdom forest, a forest of warlords and mafia fighting to profit from logging. After the frenzy of the frontier moment was over, control institutions started to be stronger, which resulted in an increase in corruption and politics entangled in resource extraction. Timber businesses grew larger as some of the small traders became big timber barons; their extraction capacity grew, which meant forests were cut down at great speed and across space. Locally, vulnerable and precarious forest workers, subjected by the barons, perceived the forests to be ‘eaten’, experiencing emerging disasters linked to logging, including landslides and flash floods. The commodity forests started ‘to end’ as valuable accessible trees started to be scarcer and scarcer. Yet the forest per se remained in people’s beliefs as ‘never ending’. The third part is the forest of rewilding, of environmentalism and of state rule. It tells two interconnected stories: the well-managed forests, cared for and spared from modern through socialist till contemporary times, gain new value as virgin corners of wilderness, spaces for reintroducing near extinct species. these are the forests of the future, as envisaged by conservation initiatives, the forests in which the little people and their 'destructive' practices have no place. Yet, they are forests layered with human histories. In this part I write from the perspective of the forestry district and forestry planners and specialists.