Unbecoming Silicon Valley: Techno Imaginaries and Materialities in Postsocialist Romania traces the racial and technocultural worlds tethering postsocialist Romania and post-Cold War Silicon Valley. Geographically, it traverses the Romanian cities of Bucharest, Cluj, and Râmnicu Vâlcea, the Molovan city of Chișinău, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area. Questioning what it means for postsocialist Romania to desire “becoming” Silicon Valley, it also asks how imaginaries of illiberal, corrupt postsocialist Eastern Europe informs the post-Cold War West. Methodologically, I engage ethnography, as well as reading and at times coproducing technology, maps, speculative fiction, media, infrastructure, and archival work. While deeply invested in the politics of displacement, I focus upon how socialist and pre-socialist techno-urban histories are updated, hacked, and rearranged in postsocialist times.
Analytically, I engage the concept of Silicon Valley imperialism, or the global condition in which Silicon Valley’s existence is necessitated by its unending growth, and in which it devours people’s intimate lives and personal data while also consuming global and even outer space imaginaries in novel ways. Silicon Valley imperialism deploys what I describe as racial technocapitalism, a concept that I use to map racial dispossession amidst technocapitalism. Engaging these twin concepts allows for a decentralized analysis of race, space, politics, and technocultural reproduction. By tracking their geographic entwinement, I theorize a postsocialist moment. In this way, I read postsocialism as a post-1989 condition that endures on both sides of the former Iron Curtain, and that recodes configurations of race and empire today. In this way, I position the current “Tech Boom 2.0” in Silicon Valley as a postsocialist phenomenon. I also analyze how, as socialist-era techno-culture is pathologized on both sides of the former Iron Curtain, pre-socialist fascist technological imaginaries are reinterpreted in the name of anticommunism. And yet, socialist-era technologies and their aftermaths endure, entwined in wires and infrastructure, while also coded into hardware and speculative fiction. As I question, how, by reading technological futures past, might we dream of new technological futures yet-to-come, futures illegible to Silicon Valley imperialism and racial technocapitalism alike.