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“Hidden Transcripts” and Microhistory as a Comparative Tool: Two Case Studies in Communist Czechoslovakia

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This article applies James Scott’s anthropological analysis of domination practices to the field of Czechoslovak communist studies. In the first part, the article retraces the epistemology, as well as the use and abuse, of the term “totalita(rianism)” in the Czech public sphere in relation to the communist past. In the second part, it contrasts the “totalita” theory to the results of two oral, microhistorical studies that investigated life under communism: the first one was undertaken in the Czech town of České Velenice at the border to Austria, the second in the Slovak town of Komárno at the border of Hungary. Through their answers, the interviewees expose the current history politics practiced in Prague as a political discourse that has little in common with everyday practices of communist rule. Far from presenting themselves as unilateral heroes or victims, the interviewees leave no doubt to the fact that the “border between good and bad” passed within each and every individual—or as Václav Havel put it, people did not support or oppose the system, they became the system.

Affiliations: 1: Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for European History and Public Spheres, Vienna, Austria


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