New article: ‘It was better when it was worse’: blue-collar narratives of the recent past in Belgrade (Social History, 43:1, 2018)

A new article (available open access) has recently been published in Social History

Rory Archer (2018) “‘It was better when it was worse’: blue-collar narratives of
the recent past in Belgrade”, Social History, 43:1, 30-55

Figure 1
“It was better when it was worse”, graffiti in Pula, 2014

ABSTRACT: Based on oral history research conducted among networks of blue-collar workers in Belgrade, Serbia, this article develops three interrelated arguments regarding workers’ appraisals of the recent past (1980–2014). Firstly, although the tumultuous years of late socialism and post-socialism in Serbia have been represented by scholars as a series of ruptures, I suggest that for blue-collar workers the boundaries between socialism and post-socialism and pre-conflict and wartime eras are blurry. Secondly, despite the conditions of war and economic collapse, blue-collar accounts of the 1990s in Serbia are not universally negative. Some individuals experienced upward social mobility, strongly influenced by class and gender positioning in late socialism. Female workers who had experienced hardship during the 1980s were often better equipped to navigate 1990s ‘economies of makeshift’. Thirdly, social dislocation associated with neoliberal economic reforms since 2000 disproportionally affects blue-collar workers, reshaping narratives of late socialism and the 1990s (sometimes inducing workers to overlook or downplay coercive aspects of the Milošević regime). The accounts of this diverse group of (former) workers highlight that social class, gender and generational cohort condition the rather divergent ways in which the last three decades were experienced, are remembered and continue to be reevaluated in Serbia.


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