'Gender, de-development and deindustrialization in Croatia'


dr. Chiara Bonfiglioli

Tuesday 2 Oct 2018, 16:15 - 17:30
International Institute of Social Studies
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'Gender, de-development and deindustrialization in Croatia: Garment workers’ struggles for social justice and sustainable livelihoods'  - Development Research Seminar by dr. Chiara Bonfiglioli, Lecturer in Gender & Women's Studies at the University College Cork, Ireland.


Textile and garment production thrived in socialist Yugoslavia during the 1970s and 1980s, when the sector covered approximately 12% of total manufacturing. Local fashion brands competed on the internal market, simultaneously exporting their production worldwide, and employing a prevailingly female workforce across the country. This came to an end after the break-up of Yugoslavia, when processes of privatization and deindustrialization, together with global changes in garment production, deeply affected the textile sector. Over 400.000 jobs were lost in the industry, while textile work in new private companies, mainly subcontractors for major Western brands, became increasingly exploitative and precarious. Similarly to the textile industry, other industrial sectors collapsed in the 1990s and 2000s during a widespread process of industrial decline and de-development.  

The demise of industrial production generated various forms of protests among former industrial workers in post-Yugoslav states. In urban settings, particularly in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, these protests often overlapped with wider social movements that have been opposing the neo-liberal privatization of public space and resources, building upon civic forms of belonging rather than on nationalist and ethnic ones.

The first part of the talk will consider garment workers’ strikes against factory closures and unpaid wages in Croatia, notably the Kamensko workers’ 2010 hunger strike, held in Zagreb, and the Arena workers’ 2014 “catwalk on strike”, which took place in Pula. The Kamensko and Arena protests fostered civic solidarity as well as a variety of intergenerational cultural projects initiated by younger activists who feel emotionally connected to the socialist industrial heritage. The second part of the talk will focus on individual workers’ narratives of everyday resilience, and on their attempts to create sustainable livelihoods through cross-border work migration, informal work, and handcrafting in the towns of Varaždin, Sinj and Pula.

About the speaker

Chiara Bonfiglioli is a Lecturer in Gender & Women’s Studies at University College Cork, Ireland, where she coordinates the MA in Women’s Studies.
She holds a BA in Political Sciences from the University of Bologna, and an MA and PhD from the Graduate Gender Programme at the University of Utrecht. Between 2012 and 2014, she has been a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, within the framework of the CITSEE project on citizenship in South East Europe.
From 2015 onwards, she has been working as NEWFELPRO post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Cultural and Historical Research of Socialism (CKPIS), University of Pula, and as EURIAS Junior Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna.

In her dissertation and subsequent publications, she has been focusing on transnational women’s activism in Cold War Italy and Yugoslavia, while her post-doctoral research has been addressing the entanglements of gender, labour and citizenship in the Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav space. She is currently completing a monograph titled Women and Industry in the Balkans: The Rise and Fall of the Yugoslav Textile Sector (I.B. Tauris, forthcoming 2018). 

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