Beyond Nostalgia

“Extrospective Introspections” of the Post-Yugoslav Memory of Socialism

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies
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  • 1 Lakehead University

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This article addresses the issue of socialist nostalgia. Specifically, it deals with the inadequacy of treating the post-socialist “return of socialism” as different incarnations of socialist nostalgia. The author contends that this kind of treatment suffers from “nostalgia reductionism” and “socialism essentialism,” and leads to the very problematic conceptual and analytical shortcoming of pre-determining the nature of what needs to be understood and explained. Correspondingly, the author argues that a meaningful consideration of the post-socialist return of socialism has to free itself from the “nostalgia presumption” and embrace a non-essentialist analytical viewpoint whereby socialist nostalgia is recast as a plurality of heterogeneous and context-dependent post-socialist socialist discourses. To this end, the author analyzes two post-Yugoslav documentary films, Sretno dijete and Orkestar, to substantiate the claim that socialist nostalgia is too narrow of a framework to encapsulate adequately the span of an entire range of post-socialist socialist discourses and the ways they operate in specific sociocultural contexts and communicate to and with particular audience(s). In advancing this argument, the author does not propose that “the nostalgic” has no place in the analysis of the post-socialist memory of socialism but, rather, that the degree and nature of its presence has to be established through an interpretive reading of particular post-socialist socialist texts, rather than presumed a priori.

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    See, for example, Nikolayenko Olena, “Contextual Effects on Historical Memory: Soviet Nostalgia Among Post-Soviet Adolescents,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41, no. 2 (2008): 243–259; Serguei Oushakine, “ ‘We’re nostalgic but we’re not crazy’: Retrofitting the Past in Russia,” Russian Review 66, no. 3 (2007): 451–482.

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  • 9

    Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001), p. 49.

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    See Berdahl, “ ‘(N)Ostalgie’ for the Present: Memory, Longing, and East German Things,” pp. 192–211.

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    Dominik Bartmanski, “Successful Icons of Failed Time: Rethinking Post-communist Nostalgia,” Acta sociologica 54, no. 3 (2011): 225.

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    Larry Ray, “At the End of the Post-Communist Transformation?: Normalization or Imagining Utopia,” European Journal of Social Theory 12, no. 3 (2009): 327.

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  • 17

    J.B. Straughn, “Culture, Memory, and Structural Change: Explaining Support for ‘Socialism’ in Post-Socialist Society,” Theory and Society 38, no. 5 (2009): 486, in-text citations omitted.

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  • 18

    M. Velikonja, “Lost in Transition: Nostalgia for Socialism in Post-Socialist Countries,” East European Politics Societies 23, no. 4 (2009): 548. See also Monika Palmberger, “Nostalgia Matters: Nostalgia for Yugoslavia as Potential Vision for a Better Future,” Sociologija 50, no. 4 (2008): 355–370.

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  • 19

    Louis Althusser, For Marx (London and New York: Verso, 2005).

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