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Building Visual Intertextuality and Territorial Identities for the Romanian Danubian Settlements during Socialism

Oana-Ramona ILOVAN 1, 2, Florentina-Cristina MERCIU*3
* Corresponding author
1 Babeș-Bolyai University, Faculty of Geography, Department of Regional Geography and Territorial Planning, Territorial Identities and Development Research Centre, Cluj-Napoca, ROMANIA
2 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department of Geography, Berlin, GERMANY
3 University of Bucharest, Faculty of Geography, Interdisciplinary Center of Advanced Research on Territorial Dynamics, Bucharest, ROMANIA

Abstract. The politics of symbolic representation is uncovered by our examining the represented cultural landscape. In this process, semiotics and discourse analysis were the methods complementing each other and enabling us to underline how Romanians’ understanding of power relations, of past and present events and ultimately of reality was shaped by signs, symbols, and stories in official visual materials. This research aims to discuss the geography of Romania’s southern border during the socialist period (1948-1989). This geography is made of the Danube and of the Danubian settlements as represented in images within Geography of Romania school textbooks and picture postcards. Thus, the aim of our article is to decode the visual construction of territorial identity of the Danubian settlements in Romania. To reach this aim, we considered the following research questions: Is the Danube the main subject in these representations or a secondary one? How is the Danube represented? What are the key-themes of its representation? How is the past of the settlements on the Danube integrated into the visual discourse during the socialist period? What was the role played by the Danube in the history of these settlements according to these representations (i.e. textbooks and picture postcards)? Results show that the Danube is a liminal space, changing functions depending on historical, political, economic, and social circumstances. The Danube is represented as landscape, defined through its economic (i.e. transport, commerce) or historical functions (i.e. border to the south or communication route with the west). Due to its representations, also the other elements seem truthful and “natural”. The presence of people and activities in the displayed places inform and educate visitors and inhabitants how to use space (contemplative, for entertainment, for relaxation, to learn, etc.). We provide an informed understanding of Romania through visual imagery: representations are singling out its uniqueness and achievements, fitting into the metanarrative of socialist propaganda.

K e y w o r d s: Danubian landscape, discourse analysis, critical visual methodology, school textbooks, picture postcards, communist narrative