Between Institutions and Hearts: Dynamics of Need, Redistribution and Social Security in a Village in Northern Dobruja
In my doctoral thesis I analyse how the needy access livelihood resources on an everyday basis by appealing to the officials of the local state, to kinsfolk, and to the religious community. My ethnographic analysis takes the viewpoint of a village in Northern Dobruja (south-eastern Romania) in order to speak to broader issues regarding the mutual dependencies and influences between social support mechanisms, the manifold influences exerted on the everyday work of state bureaucrats, and the role of religion in shaping everyday practices of social support. Through the examples analysed, I show that the help given to the materially needy by kin or by churchgoers cannot be analysed in isolation from state-provided welfare benefits. Welfare allocation through state offices, in turn, cannot disregard the role that religious ideas play in state bureaucrats’ everyday work. I show that religious charity is a crucial pillar of village-level social support practices, and that an everyday discourse with roots in the Christian tradition (the discourse of the ‘heart’) shapes local-level resource redistribution across the social categories of genealogical kin, participants in church rituals, and state bureaucrats. The thesis brings to light the dynamics of welfare provision within and beyond household units and sheds light on how individuals create, on an everyday basis, the welfare mix on which their survival depends. It thus critically complements recent analyses of welfare transformation in the aftermath of socialism, which have generally been overly focused on state-provided welfare.