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2022 Keith Hitchins Dissertation Prize

In 2021 Professor Keith Hitchins passed away after retiring from a long and rich career at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Soon thereafter, the Society for Romanian Studies established a prize to honor his legacy for the study of Romania and Romanian related topics.  A major figure for the development of interest in Romania in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century, Professor Hitchins worked with several generations of scholars, now themselves active in universities across North America and in Europe. His own research gravitated around questions about nationalism, religion, and intellectual history, but his generous mentorship enabled his students to develop expertise on many other topics. 

The Keith Hitchins Prize is to be awarded for the best dissertation completed in English or Romanian by a scholar in any social science or humanities discipline on a Romanian or Moldovan subject, broadly and inclusively understood. This may encompass focus on themes related to Romania (as it currently exists and in its various past iterations), to the people who have lived in or currently inhabit Romania, or those who self-identify as Romanian but reside beyond Romania’s borders. Studies connected to ethnic minorities in Romania are also eligible.

For the inaugural competition, the committee received dissertations completed in five different countries, in fields ranging from sociology and art history to history of science. Their breadth in topics and methods are testimony to the cultural richness that Romania presents for scholars all over the world.

The selection committee (Maria Bucur, Călin Cotoi, and Radu Vancu) is pleased to announce the co-winners of the inaugural competition for best dissertation in Romanian studies (2022): Cosmin Koszor-Codrea and Rucsandra Pop.  In the spirit of our organization and in recognition of the languages in which these two projects were completed, we offer a brief description in the language of each dissertation.

Cosmin Koszor-Codrea, “The Word of Science: Popularising Darwinism in Romania, 1859-1918,” 2021, Oxford Brookes University

Cosmin Koszor-Codrea’s doctoral thesis places Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory within the Romanian cultural context of the second half of the nineteenth century, a period of great activity in the area of science research and writing. In doing so, he presents a fascinating case study of the twin political and scientific construction of knowledge, and of the ways in which cultural hegemonies have been challenged and created. The research focuses on both the written and spoken word of the leading voices of Romanian nineteenth-century naturalists. The impact of Darwinism is followed in a comparative way, secular and religious. In addition, a closer look is reserved to the ways in which scientific ideologies served different political and racial local and transnational ideologies. Koszor-Codrea provides an original and rich contribution to the field of history of sciences, to East European studies, and, more broadly, to the social history of scientific ideas.

Rucsandra Pop, “Mihai Pop de la școala sociologică la școala etnologică—o biografie intelectuală,” 2020, Universitatea din București

Biografia intelectuală a lui Mihai Pop, așa cum a fost ea proiectată și realizată de către Rucsandra Pop, reprezintă considerabil mai mult decât o anunță titlul ei: ea nu e doar reconstituirea unui destin individual – ci reconstituirea metonimică, pars pro toto, a destinului științelor umaniste din România inter- și postbelică. Fiindcă Rucsandra Pop alege să vadă (și justifică admirabil această alegere) în persoana și opera lui Mihai Pop unul dintre agenții modernizatori esențiali ai umanioarelor românești: intelectual arhetipal al Europei Centrale, cu o poliglosie acoperind nu doar limbile uzuale ale culturilor majore, ci și pe cele ale culturilor din întreaga Mitteleuropă, participant direct la constituirea școlii de la Praga, acceptat inter pares de Roman Jakobson & co., activ deopotrivă și în mediile intelectuale care construiau sociologia română, în interiorul cărora transferă seminal și în timp real ideile occidentale, Mihai Pop mediază ideal prin opera lui (prin care Rucsandra Pop subînțelege nu doar opera scrisă, ci și întreaga acțiune instituțională și personală) circulația ideilor între “estul și vestul științific”, sincronizând decisiv câmpul științific autohton cu centrele relevante de cercetare din întreaga lume. Întemeiată pe 15 ani de interviuri și de muncă de teren, coagulând cantități masive de informație din domenii dintre cele mai diverse, originând într-o mobilitate intelectuală extraordinară (comparabilă cu a subiectului lucrării), teza Rucsandrei Pop articulează strălucitor o istorie socială a întregului câmp intelectual românesc din ultimul secol.