Working Paper 144

Charity or Remembrance? Practices of pomană in rural Moldova

Jennifer R. Cash

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 144

In the Republic of Moldova, pomană, an offering of bread accompanied by other useful and symbolic items, is regularly given by mourning individuals and families in memory of their dead relatives. Pomană is widely described as a form of charity given to the poor and needy, but it is most often distributed to close relatives and friends to encourage remembrance. In the context of the rapid impoverishment of Moldova during the postsocialist period, distributions of pomană appear contradictory; the revival of popular and official religious practices means that distributions of pomană have increased, but without noticably alleviating poverty in rural areas. During fieldwork, informants often explained this situation through the statement that ‘in the past’ people had been more religious and had distributed pomană more clearly as charity. An examination of ethnographic and historical accounts from the early 20th century, however, suggests that this is not true, and that the distribution of pomană in the past was always combined with other rituals that celebrated conviviality and reinforced the existing social ties among friends and relatives. The analysis of pomană as exchange reveals ideals and tensions surrounding the act of giving and a surprising concern for social memory.

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