Foreign Aid and State Building in Interwar Romania: In Quest of an Ideal

Extraordinary venue: BIG-Hörsaal, Main Building of the University of Vienna, Tiefparterre, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Vienna

The decades following the First World War were a period of political, social, and economic transformation for Central and Eastern Europe. The presentation looks at the role of foreign aid in Romania between 1918 and 1940, as it explores the interrelation between state building and non-governmental humanitarianism in the interwar period. Doina Anca Cretu argues that Romania was a laboratory for transnational intervention, as various state builders actively pursued, accessed, and often instrumentalized American foreign assistance in order to accelerate reconstructive and modernizing projects after the First World War. At its core, this is a study of how local views, ambitions, and practical agendas framed trajectories of humanitarianism in post-imperial Central and Eastern Europe. Conversely, it is a reflection on the ways that architects and practitioners of foreign aid sought to transfer notions of democracy, civilization, and modernity within shifting local and national contexts in the aftermath of the war and after the collapse of European empires. At the intersection of the history of interwar Europe and international humanitarianism, this research provides a new framework for understanding the contours of European nationalism in the twentieth century.

Anca Cretu is historian of foreign aid, migration, and human rights. Her work is at the intersection between international history and modern history of Central and Eastern Europe. She is currently a Research Fellow within the ERC Consolidator Grant "Unlikely Refuge? Refugees and citizens in East-Central Europe during the Twentieth Century," hosted by Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Dr.Cretu holds a PhD in International History at the Graduate Institute Geneva and was previously a 2019-2020 Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She also held visiting positions at University of Oxford, Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Note: This presentation is based on her first monograph, Foreign Aid and State Building in Interwar Romania: In Quest of an Ideal.

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