It makes me so deeply sad to hear that Marina has passed away. I would like to participate in the mourning of her passing – and do so by telling a memory about the first time I met Marina.
It was in 1989 – in Bucharest, before the fall of the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, and before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. It was also before the civil war and break up of what was back then called ”Yugoslavia”.
So, what were Marina and I doing in Bucharest in 1989 – in the midst of this ”old” world of the Cold War? The occasion was that we both attended a conference, organized by one of the many European networks in Women’s and Gender Studies which mushroomed at the time. This one was called European Network of Women’s Studies (ENWS), and it was initiated by the Dutch Ministry of Science and Education. The aim of the network was to promote women in science and higher education, and some of the feminist researchers, Marina and I included, who somehow had managed to become members, had argued that the network should also promote women’s and gender studies, which it then started to do. The conference in Bucharest was an international conference on both issues.
I met Marina, because we both – together with several other international conference participants – were living in the same hotel in the centre of Bucharest, in walking distance from the beautiful old mansion-like building where the conference took place. We who lived in the hotel spent several evenings together in the hotel restaurant – because everything in the city outside was evidently on the brink of political and economic collapse. Every public activity in Bucharest had to close down by 9pm, and most of the street lights, even in the central part of the city, where we lived, were turned off at the same time. So all conference activities took place during the day, and in the evening, the hotel restaurant was literally the only place, where we could gather for a couple of hours, until it was closed, too. When we went outside of the hotel, also during the day, the streets were pretty empty, and we had the feeling that the secret police, from invisible positions, kept an eye on everybody, including us, who so evidently, came from ”outside”.
The enormous discrepancy between, on the one hand, optimistic lectures from Romanian conference participants about women’s massive entry into higher education in their country, with the president’s wife, Elena Ceausescu leading the way, and, on the other hand, the political oppression and economic collapse overwhelmingly palpably outside of the conference-bubble, produced very profound discussions among us who gathered in small dinner table groups at the hotel.
Marina’s analyses really stood out in these discussions. I and others who came from ”the west” had our knowledge about the situation mainly from western european newspapers, which did not equip us well to understand what was going on. We were rather stunned, but not able to really in-depth grasp what was about to happen. Of course, noone, not even Marina would probably have been able to imagine that, only about half a year later, a revolution would have wiped out the Ceausescu regime. Nevertheless, by contrast to most of us, Marina had a really in-depth understanding of the Balkan situation as a whole, the Romanian one included. She also had developed strong theoretical frameworks to make sense of what was going on, not only in Romania, but also in other parts of the Balkans. I remember with lucid clarity Marina’s very articulate and forceful warnings about strong nationalistic tendencies that could lead to potentially deadly conflicts on these grounds – warnings which I, at the time, did not quite understand due to the fact that the oppression of the authoritarian and anti-democratic Communist regimes seemed to be the biggest, immediate problem. However, in the light of the later historical events, I came to understand well what Marina was talking about back then.
I have met Marina several times since this first strange meeting in Bucharest 31 years ago. Among others, Marina has visited our Gender Studies Unit, at Linköping University in Sweden, several times – as a visiting professor of the gender excellence centre, GEXcel, which we organized together with Gender Studies colleagues from Örebro University. Sweden. Marina also became an outstanding contributor to the book series Routledge Advances in Feminist Studies and Intersectionality, which we, who started the excellence centre, GEXcel, set up with the publishing house Routledge in New York/London.
At these later occassions Marina and I sometimes returned to our memories from the meeting in Bucharest in 1989 – and the strange context, which, retrospectively, appeared as so significantly marked by the major political changes, happening very shortly after!
Now you have passed away, Marina, and this makes me very-very sad. But I will always remember your so profound, theoretically and empirically knowledgeable, and passionately political analyses – from the hotel evenings in Bucharest, as well as from much more recent and happy occasions such as the conferences and other activities in which you participated during your periods as visiting professor in Linköping.