Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Dr Stefan Dorondel

Fellow Imre Kertész Kolleg

July - December 2019

Stefan Dorondel was a fellow at the Imre Kertész Kolleg from July until December 2019. He is an anthropologist-cum-historian interested in environmental change in modern and contemporary Southeast Europe. Stefan Dorondel received a Ph.D. in History and Ethnology at the Lucian Blaga University, Sibiu (Romania) and a Ph.D. in Agrarian Studies at the Humboldt University Berlin (Germany). He had multiple fellowships at the University of Regensburg, the University of Cambridge, the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle, Rachel Carson Center of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, at New Europe College and at Yale University. He is the author of Disrupted Landscapes. State, Peasants and Politics in Postsocialist Romania and a co-author (with T. Sikor, J. Stahl and P. X To) of When Things Become Property. Land Reform, Authority, and Value in Postsocialist Europe and Asia, both published by Berghahn Books. His current research is focused on the Danube and its wetlands history and the technological transformations and their consequences for the riparian communities.

Awards and fellowships

2013 - Visiting Fellow at the Institut für Ost-und Südoesteuropaforschung, University of Regensburg
2012 - CRASSH Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge
2009-12 - Postdoctoral Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle, Germany
2010 - Rachel Carson Center International Postdoctoral Fellow
2008-9 - New Europe College Fellowship
2005 - Yale University, CT, USA , Agrarian Studies Program, Visiting Scholar

Research project at the Kolleg

Building the State, Taming the Nature: Experts, Bureaucrats and Environmental Policies in Modern Southeast Europa

The research project I propose as a Fellow of the Imre Kertész Kolleg in Jena is to complete an edited volume which will be submitted for publication to The University of Pittsburgh Press (Intersections: Histories of Environment, Science, and Technology in the Anthropocene Series). The volume explores the way in which the state formation in Southeast Europe as a socio- political process intertwines with the transformation of the nature which had to be tamed for economic reasons. The modernization of the state as well as the attempt to build the new nations (in the modern sense of the word) is also carried through tremendous interventions in the nature in order to subjugate it, to put it at work for the sake of the people. Within the establishment of nation-states experts were commissioned by the new political elite to tame the ‘savage nature’ and to put it at work for the new state. A new bureaucracy rose whose technical knowledge was necessary to operate the new infrastructure which was considered essential for the newly emerged states. Ports, the newly built levees, bridges were all a token of the modernity to which the new states aspired. The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed a frantic activity in importing new technologies from the western world which were expected to radically change an untamed nature and to transform it into productive natural resources.

The environmental transformations in Eastern Europe in the modern time hardly benefitted from systemic attention. This volume attempts to fill this gap by exploring some of the following issues. It will question the importance of western technology and whether the imports of technology came with western ideologies concerning nature or these ideologies were locally/nationally constructed. The volume will also explore the status of these experts (biologists, geographers, engineers etc) and question if they can be considered as what Michael Lipsky (1980) called ‘street-level bureaucrats’, as merely representatives of the state that implement a project or they have their own scientific and political agendas which may collude but sometimes collide with the state policies.

Main areas of research

  • Environmental anthropology
  • Environmental history
  • Rivers and wetlands history
  • Natural disasters
  • Southeast Europe

Positions and memberships

  • Senior Researcher at the Francisc I. Rainer Institute of Anthropology Bucharest, Romanian Academy
  • Researcher at the Institute for Southeast European Studies, Bucharest (part time)
  • Member of the Executive Board of the European Society for Environmental History
  • Member of the Executive Board of the International Association for Southeast European Anthropology


Stefan Dorondel, Disrupted Landscapes. State, Peasants, and the Politics of Land in Postsocialist Romania (Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books, 2016).

Stefan Dorondel,Moartea şi apa. Ritualuri funerare, simbolism acvatic şi structura lumii de dincolo în imaginarul ţărănesc [Death and Water. Funerary Rituals, Water Symbolism, and the Otherworld Imaginary Among the Peasants from Southern Romania] (Bucureşti: Paideia, 2004).

Edited volumes

Oane Visser, Stefan Dorondel, Natalia Momonova, Max Spoor, eds, Post-socialist Smallholders: Silence, Resistance and Alternatives (A special issue of Canadian Journal of Development Studies) (in print).

Stefan Dorondel, S. Serban, eds, At the Margins of History. The Agrarian Question in Southeast Europe. A special issue of Martor, vol. 19., 2013.

Daniel Műnster, Ursula Műnster, Stefan Dorondel, eds, Fields and Forests: Ethnographic Perspectives on Environmental Globalization (RCC Perspectives 5/2012).

Stefan Dorondel, Thomas Sikor eds, Private Property: Postsocialist Promises and Experiences (A special section in Annuaire Roumain d’Anthropologie, Vol. 46, 2009: 55-120).

Stefan Dorondel, Stelu Serban, eds, Between East and West. Studies in Anthropology and Social History (Bucharest: Romanian Cultural Institute, 2005).


Stefan Dorondel, Stelu Serban, ‘Healing Waters: Infrastructure and the Capitalist Phantasies in the Socialist Ruins of Rural Bulgaria’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies (in print, 2019).

Stefan Dorondel, S. Serban, ‘Dissuading the State: Food Security, Peasant Resistance and Environmental Concerns in Rural Bulgaria’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies (

Stefan Dorondel, Stelu Serban, D. Cain, The Play of Islands: Danube Dynamics and Border Establishment in Modern Southeast Europe (1830-1900), Environment and History 25, no. 3 (2019): 313-318

Stefan Dorondel, ‘Environmental Disasters, Climate Change and Other Big Problems of Our Times. A View from Southeast Europe,’ Ethnologia Balkanica vol. 19 (2016): 11-32

Stefan Dorondel, ‘Mihai Popa, Workings of the State: Lists, the European Union Food Aid, and Local Practices of Distribution in Rural Romania,’ Social Analysis 58, vol. 3 (2014): 124-140.


Review of James C. Scott, Against the Grain. A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2017) in Peuce SN, XVI (2019): 371-376.

Review of Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, A Tale of Two Villages. Coerced Modernization in the East European Countryside (Budapest, New York, CEU Press, 2010), in Sűdosteuropa, 60(2013): 148-150.

Review of Max Spoor. ed, The Political Economy of Rural Livelihoods in Transition Economies. Land, Peasants and Rural Poverty in Transition (London, Routledge, 2008), in TheJournal of Peasant Studies, 37( 2009): 252-254.

The full list of publications can be found under the following link