• My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File

    Author(s):
    Pages: 344
    Illustrations: 29 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
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    978-0-8223-7066-6
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    978-0-8223-7081-9
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  • Preface  xi
    A Note of Fonts, Pseudonyms, and Pronunciation  xiii
    Acknowledgments  xv
    Prologue  1
    Part I. Research under Surveillance
    1. The 1970s: "The Folklorist" as Military Spy  33
    2. The 1980s: The Enemy's Many Masks  111
    Excursus. Reflections on Reading One's File  181
    Part II. Inside the Mechanisms of Surveillance
    3. Revelations  195
    4. Ruminations  277
    Epilogue  295
    Notes  299
    Bibliography  309
    Index  315
  • "A memoir with the exciting elements of an espionage thriller. . . . This work of anthropological intrigue shows the author’s academic coming-of-age."

    "Fascinating, thoughtful and occasionally riveting."

    "Coming from such a distinguished academic, Verdery’s brutally honest description of herself, including as a naive and careless young scholar, is stunning. Few books reflect so frankly and so powerfully on the nature and complications of an academic career."

    "This book raises provocative points about the effect of surveillance that will appeal to most readers."

    "To read one’s police file is—suddenly—to have the curtain pulled open. The self you think you know becomes a mask, concealing a devious somebody else whose relationships are mere espionage fakes. . . . [An] unforgettable book."

    Reviews

  • "A memoir with the exciting elements of an espionage thriller. . . . This work of anthropological intrigue shows the author’s academic coming-of-age."

    "Fascinating, thoughtful and occasionally riveting."

    "Coming from such a distinguished academic, Verdery’s brutally honest description of herself, including as a naive and careless young scholar, is stunning. Few books reflect so frankly and so powerfully on the nature and complications of an academic career."

    "This book raises provocative points about the effect of surveillance that will appeal to most readers."

    "To read one’s police file is—suddenly—to have the curtain pulled open. The self you think you know becomes a mask, concealing a devious somebody else whose relationships are mere espionage fakes. . . . [An] unforgettable book."

  • "With fearless curiosity and a broken heart, Katherine Verdery takes us on a fraught journey into her secret police files, addressing issues of trust and betrayal in fieldwork with such vulnerability you want to hold her hand. A haunting and original mix of autoethnography and history, this book is certain to become a classic in anthropology." — Ruth Behar, author of, Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys

    “This fascinating and important book should be compulsory reading for all anthropologists and oral historians. There is nothing quite like it.” — Sheila Fitzpatrick, author of, A Spy in the Archives: A Memoir of Cold War Russia

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  • Description

    As Katherine Verdery observes, "There's nothing like reading your secret police file to make you wonder who you really are." In 1973 Verdery began her doctoral fieldwork in the Transylvanian region of Romania, ruled at the time by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. She returned several times over the next twenty-five years, during which time the secret police—the Securitate—compiled a massive surveillance file on her. Reading through its 2,781 pages, she learned that she was "actually" a spy, a CIA agent, a Hungarian agitator, and a friend of dissidents: in short, an enemy of Romania. In My Life as a Spy she analyzes her file alongside her original field notes and conversations with Securitate officers. Verdery also talks with some of the informers who were close friends, learning the complex circumstances that led them to report on her, and considers how fieldwork and spying can be easily confused. Part memoir, part detective story, part anthropological analysis, My Life as a Spy offers a personal account of how government surveillance worked during the Cold War and how Verdery experienced living under it.

    About The Author(s)

    Katherine Verdery is Julien J. Studley Faculty Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of numerous books, including The Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvania and Secrets and Truths: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania's Secret Police.

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