Conference: Workers beyond Socialist Glorification and Post-Socialist Disavowal: New Perspectives on Eastern European Labour History (Vienna 24-27 May 2018)


Convened by Rory Archer (UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, and Goran Musić (CEU Budapest,


Following the pioneering works of researchers like Padraic Kenney, Malgorzata Fidelis and the late Mark Pittaway on the creation of a (gendered) proletariat in socialist Eastern Europe, new research has begun to explore industrial and other forms of labour in existence during different phases of socialist modernization in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

This conference gathered a range of contemporary research initiatives which deal with labour in Eastern Europe, seeking to encourage increased exchange and provide a forum to contrast and compare findings.

Aiming to creatively contribute to a common body of knowledge about varieties of labour practices and working class subjectivities (during socialism and beyond), the conference had two goals:

Firstly, it seeks to map out the state of the art with regard to the study of labour in different countries of Eastern Europe and provide a platform for the presentation of recent and on-going research in an expanding field of study.

Secondly, the conference seeks to bring the study of labour in state socialism into dialogue with the theoretical postulates of global labour history by looking for common themes and trends, but also rethinking the contribution of labour history written under state socialism.

While the primary focus of the conference was on the socialist period research also examined other periods of transformation (including the pre-socialist, postsocialist and longue durée perspectives).

Programme as pdf

The keynote, delivered by Diane P. Koenker (UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies), featured some of her most recent research on the Soviet service sector. Bonuses, bribes, and tips: the status of Soviet service work in the 1960s uses a 1969 Soviet debate about the appropriateness of tipping waiters and taxi drivers to explore attitudes about the socialist service sector more generally.

DSC_0883 Diane


DSC_0906 Group.jpg


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EastLabour Programme 10.05.2018-page-008.jpg

Published by

Rory Archer

I am a social historian of 20th century Southeast Europe originally from Ireland and primarily based in Austria for the last decade. My research has focused on labour history and gender history in socialism, housing, everyday life and popular culture. Methodologically, I have experience in working through oral history, grounded theory and other qualitative, interpretive methods which link social science approaches to social history research. My current research project (2020-2023) explores the history of intra-Yugoslav Albanian migration during late-socialism.

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