Drawing discontent. Cartoons in workplace periodicals in the 1980s

A few months ago I wrote about using Yugoslav workplace periodicals as sources. One very fruitful source in these publications is informal content – jokes, aphorisms, interviews with workers on everyday life topics, and cartoons. Much of this content was produced, written and drawn by workers for workers.

Cartoons in particular offer interesting perspectives on social relations. Visual critique often went far beyond the bounds of what would be appropriate for the textual content. Yet, in the workplaces I have explored, the cartoons and informal content did not appear to have caused major controversy.

What follows below is a selection of cartoons from various Yugoslav workplace publications. Some common themes are visible including divisions between blue and white collar workers, corrupt management, problems of theft, laziness and absenteeism and cynicism about the widening gap between theory and practice in Yugoslav socialism.

From Rakovica to Prizren and from Titograd to Pula cartoons in worker periodicals revolve around similar themes and concerns. They serve to remind that despite decentralisation and increasingly divergent conditions between the republics (autarky), common working class tropes of dissatisfaction remained remarkably similar across the country for much of the 1980s.

Rory Archer, 15.04.2016





Panels on labour and identity in socialist and postsocialist contexts (ASN, NYC, April 2016)

As part of the ‘Between class and nation’ project Rory Archer and Goran Musić are convening a panel at the upcoming ASN Convention in New York (14-16 April 2016). We are also collaborating with colleagues for a sister panel which examines related phenomena in a more contemporary context through ethnography.

The panel Between class and nation: Labor, Identity and Care in Postsocialism (Thursday 15th April 11:20-13:20, Panel BK6) is organised by Fabio Mattioli (CUNY) and Larisa Kurtović (Uni Ottawa). This panel focuses on contemporary ethnographic investigations of labor, care and postsocialist economies in former Yugoslav republics of Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina:

  • Ivan Rajković (SSEES, UCL), “We should now gather as Serbs, to become workers again”: foreign privatizations as national redemption in Serbia.
  • Fabio Mattioli (CUNY), The Value of Labor: a reflection on how authoritarianism values workers.
  • Larisa Kurtović (Uni Ottawa), On Labor, Occupation and Other Not-Quite-National Things: the Case of Detergent Factory “Dita” in Tuzla.

Susan Woodward (CUNY) will act as discussant and Marko Grdešić will chair the session.

Our panel Between class and nation: Labour and identity in late socialism (Friday 15th April 11:20-13:20, Panel BK12) explores labour and the rise of nationalism in late Yugoslav socialism through sociological and social history methods. The focus is on non-elite actors, first and foremost Yugoslav workers (many of which were mobilised in strikes and protests in the late 1980s):

  • Rory Archer (Uni Graz), “Us and them”. Discontent in the Yugoslav factory of the 1980s.
  • Goran Musić (Uni Graz), The Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution in Multinational settings. Labour movements and Serbian nationalism in Sandžak and Vojvodina, 1988-1989.
  • Marko Grdešić (Uni Wisconsin/Zagreb), Legacies of populism: How focus groups discuss Milosevic’s hybrid of class and nation.

The panel will be chaired by Larisa Kurtović (Uni Ottowa), and Ana Dević (Uni Jena/Fatih) will act as discussant.

We invite colleagues with an interest in these topics to join us for discussions. The ASN convention will be held in the International Affairs Building (IAB) of Columbia University (420 West 118th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive) from 14-16 April).

Here is the ASN final programme.

Between class and nation: Labour and identity in late socialism (Panel proposal for ASN. New York City, 12-14 April 2016)

We are seeking one or two papers to complete a panel on labour movements, class based identities and nationalism in late socialism at the ASN Convention (Association for the Study of Nationalities) in New York in April 2016.
The focus of our research is Yugoslavia in the 1980s but we are open to proposals dealing with other late socialist contexts (e.g. USSR, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria…) based on empirical research.
Although socialist societies like Yugoslavia were officially predicated on the privileged position of the working class, labour movements and class based identities remain under-researched (despite often being at the forefront of mass social movements in late socialism, e.g. Solidarity in Poland, late 1980s strikes in Yugoslavia). This panel takes the agency of workers and class based identities seriously and explores the ways in which working class identity intersected with nationalism (or not).
In order to meet the approaching application deadline please submit an abstract of under 300 words and a biographical statement of under 100 words to rory.archer@uni-graz.at and goran.music@uni-graz.at no later than 19.10.2015