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Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies pres.

CREES Noon Lecture. Class, Culture, and the "Gastarbeiters": Contested Meanings of Labor Migration in Socialist Yugoslavia

Ulf Brunnbauer, chair of southeast and east European history, University of Regensburg

Ulf Brunnbauer Ulf Brunnbauer
Ulf Brunnbauer
In 1972, famous Zagreb-based film director Krsto Papić released his documentary “Special Trains,” which accompanies Yugoslav migrant workers on their journey from Zagreb to Germany. The film ends with a scene showing the migrants in the basement of Munich central station, where they are addressed by the number of their work contracts and no longer by their names. This short documentary encapsulates the ambivalences of labor migration from Yugoslavia. It was the only socialist country allowing its people to take work in the capitalist west, which by many was hailed as a sign of its openness. Yet, the export of workers from the presumed socialist paradise also provoked critical reflections about class inequality in the country. This talk will present the ambivalent and shifting representations of “gastarbeiters” in political and public discourses in socialist Yugoslavia since the 1960s. It seems that eventually the state failed to manage the semantic – and social – contradictions connected with migration. The focus will be on the problem of representations of emigration in sending countries, which receives much less attention than the question of immigration.

Ulf Brunnbauer is director of the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies in Regensburg and professor of Southeast and East European history at the University of Regensburg. After studies in Graz, Vienna, Moscow, and Sofia, he received a PhD from the University of Graz (Austria) in 1999 and a habilitation from the Free University of Berlin in 2006. He works mainly on the social history of the Balkans in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of his last books is “Globalizing Southeastern Europe. Emigrants, America and the State Since the Late 19th Century” (Lexington, 2016).

If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to attend this event, please reach out to crees@umich.edu at least 2 weeks in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
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