research

illustration by SMillustration by SM

Provisional title of my PhD thesis*:

Industrial Heritage Sites in Post-Socialist Serbia: Between Manufacturing the Past and Constructing the Future

the future today is not what it used to be

Abstract:

The recent turbulent breakdown of former socialist Yugoslavia has resulted in change of paradigms from industrial to service based economy. In fact, 98 major industrial centres and factories in Serbia have been shut down and the number of people employed in industry has dropped from 970.000 to 370.000. Departed from once future-oriented industrial society, Serbian institutions are currently introducing past-oriented heritage projects to revive current idling urban situation in company towns across the country. Simultaneously, Serbian academia is discussing industrial heritage as a rather romanticized narrative, rooted in the predominantly historic preservation approach. However, outside the institutional and academic discourse is a liminal space filled with struggles of former factory workers, their families and single factory town citizens; high unemployment rates with no sign of improvement, experience of failing privatizations and loss of jobs, erosion of moral standards and reduction of workers’ rights, and agonizing process of struggle against the old way of life have resulted in lack of means for the town dwellers to control the probabilities and create active plans for the future. Therefore, my thesis focuses on this significant space in-between. Using qualitative research method, I have been documenting since 2012 the project of transformation of Senjski Rudnik from a mining town into a town museum. The aim is to critically investigate the true nature of memory construction and expose current strategies of spatial reconfiguration as a new form of governmatality which defines today’s Serbian post-socialist urban context.

Keywords:

Industrial heritage, post-socialist Serbia, mining towns, urban redevelopment, urban memory, liminal space

*The research is being conducted as part of the Urban Heritage research group at the Institute for European Urban Studies, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.

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