Moral vectors, transitional time and a ‘utopian object of impossible fullness’*


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    This research, carried out in 2005 in Bistriţa-Năsăud County, Romania, and Almería Province, Spain, was supported by grants from the William Wyse fieldwork fund and Peterhouse, Cambridge. For their helpful and incisive comments I am grateful to the SA/AS editor and the two anonymous readers who commented on this paper, as well as to Yoon Choi, Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, Paul Stephenson, Clarissa de Waal, Catherine Wanner, and Piers Vitebsky and the other participants of a seminar at the Political Anthropology Reading Group at Cambridge where this theme was initially presented in June 2006.


Drawing on recent research in a Transylvanian community characterised by outward labour migration, this article posits a particular situated telos of normality, a ‘utopian object of impossible fullness’ defined subjectively by different social actors, which provides a sharp contrast to the delineated, singular accomplishments that characterised the collective teleological nature of socialist time. Unlike a discourse of progress, the expectation of utopia in the sense of ‘normality’, always deferred, always equally imminent, means that the present comes to be expressed as a void where seemingly contradictory moral vectors concerning practices such as working abroad can exist side by side.