The Siliconization of Postsocialist Romania: Techno Imaginaries and Materialities

Erin McElroy
Feminist Studies
UC Santa Cruz

As part of a larger dissertation project connecting and comparing techno-utopic imaginaries and IT materialities in Silicon Valley and in “Europe’s Silicon Valley”—Romania, the grantee proposed spending one month in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, studying contemporary forms of IT-induced gentrification. In recent years, Cluj has been lauded for fast internet connectivity and an array of startups, research and development branches of global IT companies, and cheap talent. Seemingly overnight, former communist-era factory buildings are being transformed into tech office buildings and condos. Meanwhile, as in California’s Silicon Valley, investment in IT infrastructure has incited contexts of gentrification and racialized dispossession, disproportionately impacting Roma communities.

Over the course of one month, the grantee interviewed those both part of this IT boom and those negatively impacted by it, weaving together narratives of aspiration, displacement, and contradiction. She was interested in not only comparatively mapping IT growth and its material and imaginative landscapes in Cluj and Silicon Valley, but in also theorizing their connections. Is Cluj actually the new Silicon Valley, and if so, what does this mean? Does IT growth inhere contexts of gentrification, or are there other technological futures that refuse structures of racialized dispossession?