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From industrial ruins to post-industrial hubs: changing landscape of work in EU periphery

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Veranstaltungskategorie Vortrag

Universität Klagenfurt

Institut für Kulturanalyse


The presentation is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out for over a 10-year period in the picturesque town of Sisak, not far from the Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb. For the last half a century, Sisak has been perceived as a regional industrial center that provided ample opportunities for industrial workers, as a place to work, live and organize harmonious life for ever-growing socialist working-class families. The research project revolved around the changes triggered by post-socialist transformation, war, deindustrialization, and other urgencies and immobilities than befallen upon the citizens of this postindustrial suburban town.

One of the renown Yugoslav steelwork industry, the city’s Iron factory was the most prominent feature that, along with the oil refinery, generated wealth and prosperity for the better part of the socialist era. Here, I will try to present a scrapbook of stories (and images) encountered during the fieldwork in a neighborhood of this factory. Those include stories of industrial nostalgia, loss of financial security, spatial ruination, melancholic stories of settling with the past, present and future, stories of anger, revolt and disaffection of the generation X and Millennials. They also include stories of (high-skilled) workers who migrated and left and, finally, stories of highly skilled workforce that returned and then stayed to start a new postindustrial and entrepreneurial era in the city.

The lecture will feature research findings on the postindustrial era of a once great industrial town. In order to show the workings of the local post-industrial ethnography, to grasp the fading, evolving and emerging phenomena, I will also discuss the conceptual framework that had to include the backward- and forward-moving (life)-worlds as well as (life)-worlds staying still.

I will tackle the changes in the conceptual framework of our study, following from the challenges imposed by the long-lasting research idling at the same research site.

Sanja Potkonjak, Assoc.Prof. (Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb)

Janine Schemmer (janine [dot] schemmer [at] aau [dot] at)