New article: “The moral economy of home construction in late socialist Yugoslavia” (History and Anthropology)

kumodraz bg
“Old and new – high-rise towers and shacks in Kumodraž, Belgrade” (Večernje novosti, 17.11.1976).

We are pleased to announce publication of an open access article by Rory Archer in History and Anthroplogy, “The moral economy of home construction in late socialist Yugoslavia” (29:2, 2018).

Housing shortages in Yugoslav cities were a perennial concern for authorities and citizens alike. They disproportionately affected Yugoslav workers who as a consequence were the demographic most likely to independently construct a family home. The article explores how informal builders justified home construction in moral terms, legitimizing it on the basis of physical labour that was invested in home construction. This was couched in both the language register of Yugoslav socialism and patriarchal custom (according to which a male-headed household should enjoy the right to a family home). Construction was also conditioned by the opportunities and constraints of late socialist temporalities.

The article is available at:

Here are a few of accompanying pictures that did not make it into the published text.

The first image is an interview in folk music magazine Sabor with Tomislav “Mali mrav” Čolović with the headline “Brick by brick – three houses”. The lead text is underscored by notions of morality in home building. Čolović declares “The singer of newly composed folk music, our host Čolović, known also as “Mali mrav” [Little ant]: Look at these houses in the neighbourhood, for half of them I laid half the bricks myself. And I’m not ashamed. I worked honourably and honestly – I didn’t steal. Now that I have it, I want to enjoy it!'”

Pantelić, 1988.


Protagonist Staniša Simić’s rogue construction was destroyed by authorities in Belgrade. In a 1983 interview with tabloid weekly Novosti 8 the cook implores: “If they had to destroy it, did they have to do it so evilly? Nobody has their house levelled like that; they always usually let the person take out the materials, not to totally destroy him. Nobody builds a house out of anger!”

Kordić 1983.
Staniša Simić’s demolished house (Kordić 1983).


Kaluđerica, Belgrade’s largest informally built neighbourhood (photo: Wikimedia commons, 2009).


Croatian daily Vjesnik aptly proclaimed in 1980, “Life does not wait for spatial plans” (Jambrović 1980).

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