Saturday, July 31, 2010

Consuming Post-Socialist Nostalgia in Budapest

Ok this post isn't strictly about I.T. in the university but as Andrew Sullivan writes in "Why I Blog" a successful blog doesn't necessarily need to have the focus or formality or authority of essay writing. It's free to be a little more eclectic and experimental. So I'm trying a bit of that in this post.

I recently came back from a bike trip from Passau in eastern Germany to Budapest in Hungary. While in Hungary I went and visited Memento Park where I happened across an old Trabant. My pose in the above picture is intended to be ironic. My thoughts while standing there were of classmates who had proudly posed in our high school year book in front of their own (or perhaps their dad's) prized vehicles. I've attached one of these images although I count many more like it in my yearbook. I'm not sure exactly what underlies the irony; certainly I'm trying to signal that I wasn't the type to pose this way (although my own year book picture was equally if not more ridiculous). But I'm hoping that something more is evoked as well. In an essay my Dad shared with me (titled "Go Trabi Go!") Daphne Berdahl argues that going about in a Trabi in post 1989 Europe could symbolize your own poverty and lack of ability to afford something nicer but that later it took on a more nostalgic and ironic character. As Berdahl argues:

"The revitalized Trabi is....symptomatic of what I have called "ostalgie for the present", that is practices that both contest and affirm the new order of a market economy by expressing politicized identities in terms of product choices and mass merchandising....consumers of Ostalgie and drivers of Trabis may escape the dominant order without leaving it."

I was only semi-conscious of this "ironic awareness" when I posed hurriedly in front of the camera. But perhaps similar motivations were at work. It's too bad the Trabi wasn't around when I graduated from high school; maybe then I too could have a graduation picture that I'd be less embarrassed about.