In the Romanian Danube Delta, many activities involve some degree of concealment from state authorities. Residents live off strategies that are largely illegal, and authorities are largely in the business of making sure that everyone knows that most of their strategies are illegal. If the phrasing of the previous sentence sounds vague, it is because it is formulated to reflect the vagueness of the law and its implementation by the authorities, as well as the lack of certitudes that residents have regarding their daily activities – the only certainty being that it is almost impossible for them to abide by all formal regulations. Why is it so? If formal regulations are designed in a way that they cannot be abided by, what are they for? And what does this say about how governance is produced through formal institutions and informal strategies co-opted into those same governance structures? In order to answer these questions, this chapter unpacks the case of the village of Sfântu Gheorghe in the Romanian Danube Delta and, more specifically, the issue of fishing. We focus on this activity in order to show how state presence and governance are shaped and what they mean to locals: a minefield of regulations that make it impossible for them not to fall into illegality and devise complex informal systems. The result is an insight into how the state forces residents of borderlands into illegality. Governance is based on the imposition of regulation and on the tacit understanding that such rules cannot be abided by. Why this is so and how residents respond to it is explained in the last section. This chapter is based on extensive field research, which took place during the course of three years (2014-2017).
Prelz Oltramonti, G., and Tanasescu, M., « The Criminalisation of Informal Practices in the Danube Delta: how and why ». In Russo, A., Polese, A. & Strazzari F. (Eds.), Governance Beyond the Law. The Illegal, the Immoral, the Criminal. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019