Between class and nation: Working class communities in 1980s Serbia and Montenegro

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This is a blog about the study of labour, nationalism and everyday life in late Yugoslav socialism. It is associated with the research project Between class and nation: Working class communities in 1980s Serbia and Montenegro.

The project is based at the Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz. Financed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF project no: P27008), the project runs until May 2018. It is led by Florian Bieber and employs researchers Rory Archer (r.archer@ucl.ac.uk) and Goran Musić (goran.music@uni-graz.at).

 

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About the project

This project explores working class communities in Serbia and Montenegro during the 1980s in an attempt to generate new insights on interactions between social class and ethno-nationalism and about the agency of working people in the conditions of late Yugoslav socialism.

Despite the great volume of scholarly works treat the Yugoslav state and its demise from various disciplinary and thematic perspectives, few studies keep the role of the working class at the core of analysis.

The project relies empirically on four case studies of working class communities which include an industrial suburb of Belgrade (Rakovica), two provincial Serbian towns (Priboj, Zrenjanin) and an industrial centre in Montenegro (Nikšić). We also draw upon examples from other Yugoslav industrial centres (including Pula, Rijeka, Maribor, Prizren and Skopje).

Two questions help structure the research:

  • How was the gap between official Yugoslav self-management ideology and social reality mediated by the working class during the 1980s?
  • How did national(ist) and social demands intersect inside working class milieus?

A focus is made on three interconnected levels of analysis: the home; the workplace; and interventions in public space. Through a micro-level focus, the project seeks insight into macro processes of social and political change in 1980s Yugoslavia. The project is attentive to the ways in which ordinary people – industrial workers and their families – negotiated, subverted, shaped (and were themselves shaped by) broader policies and processes in everyday practice.

Through focusing on linkages between micro and macro levels, between the particular working class communities and the broader political and socio-economic context, the project seeks to advance the state-of-the-art with regard to organised labour, class, nationalism and everyday life in late Yugoslav socialism.

Through our project we seek to engage with the growing number of researchers working on similar phenomena (labour, socialism, postsocialism and everyday life in SEE and beyond). To conclude the project we are convening a conference titled Workers beyond Socialist Glorification and Post-Socialist Disavowal: New Perspectives on Eastern European Labour History (Vienna, 24-27 May 2018, see draft programme here).

About the project researchers

Rory Archer received his doctorate in History from the University of Graz in December 2015. His doctoral project explored how working class Belgraders mediated the gap between theory and practice in late Yugoslav socialism using the case study of access to social housing. As of September 2016 he is Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

Goran Musić received his doctorate in History from the European University History in Florence in January 2016. His doctoral dissertation is titled ‘The Self-Managing Factory after Tito: The crisis of Yugoslav Socialism on the Shop Floor’. Currently he is Residential Fellow in East European Labor History at the Central European University, Budapest.

Project Publications

As signatories of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, the FWF and the University of Graz are committed to advance sustained Open Access to scholarly publications and research data. All publications emerging from the project are made available here:

  • Rory Archer, “‘It was better when it was worse’: Blue-collar narratives of the recent past in Belgrade”, Social History 43:1 (2018): 30-55 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03071022.2018.1393997
  • Rory Archer, “The moral economy of home construction in late socialist Yugoslavia” History and Anthropology, 29:2 (2018): 141-162 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02757206.2017.1340279  
  • Rory Archer and Goran Musić, “Approaching the Socialist Factory and its Workforce: Considerations from Fieldwork in (former) Yugoslavia” Labor History 58:1 (2017): 44-66 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0023656X.2017.1244331 
  • Rory Archer, Igor Duda and Paul Stubbs, “Bringing class back in. An introduction” , in Rory Archer, Igor Duda and Paul Stubbs (eds.) Social inequalities and discontent in Yugoslav Socialism. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016, 1-20. Introduction Archer Duda Stubbs
  • Rory Archer, “‘Paid for by the Workers, Occupied by the Bureaucrats’: Housing Inequalities in 1980s Belgrade” in Rory Archer, Igor Duda and Paul Stubbs (eds.) Social inequalities and discontent in Yugoslav Socialism. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016, 58-76. Chapter 4 Archer
  • Goran Musić, “‘They Came as Workers and Left as Serbs’: The Role of Rakovica’s Blue-Collar Workers in Serbian Social Mobilizations of the Late 1980s” in Rory Archer, Igor Duda and Paul Stubbs (eds.) Social inequalities and discontent in Yugoslav Socialism. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016, 132-154. Chapter 8 Music
  • Rory Archer, “‘Imaš kuću – vrati stan’. Housing inequalities, socialist morality and discontent 1980s Yugoslavia”, Godišnjak za društvenu istoriju/Annual of Social History 20:3 (2015): 119-139. Archer 2015

Forthcoming publications:

  • Rory Archer, “‘Antibureaucratism’ as a Yugoslav Phenomenon: The View from northwest Croatia”, Nationalities Papers.
  • Goran Musić, “Provincial, Proletarian and Multinational: The Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution in Priboj, South-Western Serbia”, Nationalities Papers.
  • Rory Archer and Goran Musić, “When Workers’ Self-Management met Neoliberalism: Positive Perceptions of Market Reforms among Blue-Collar Workers in Late Yugoslav Socialism” in Martha Siefert (ed.) Labor in State Socialist Europe after 1945. Budapest: CEU Press.
  • Rory Archer and Goran Musić, “(Self)-Managing on Their Own: Revisiting Yugoslav Working Class Grievances in early 1980s”, Revue d’études comparatives Est-Ouest (RECEO).
  • Rory Archer and Goran Musić, “‘Not all canteens are created equal’: Food provision for Yugoslav blue-collar workers in late socialism”, in Ruža Fotiadis, Vladimir Ivanović, Radina Vučetić (eds.) Brotherhood and Unity at the Kitchen Table? Cooking, Cuisine and Food Culture in Socialist Yugoslavia. Budapest: CEU Press.
  • Rory Archer, “‘Us and them’. Discontent in the Yugoslav factory of the 1980s” in Maike Lehmann (ed.) The Many Faces of Mature Socialism (under review).
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