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Beyond Nostalgia

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

Dalibor Mišina

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.