Utopia in uniform? “Tea party” about Yugoslavia through the lens of the JNA


Within the Regional Tea Party lecture series, Tanja Petrović will talk about whether and in what way Yugoslavia and the political ideas of Yugoslav socialism can be seen through the experience of military service in the Yugoslav People’s Army.

In her lecture “Utopia in uniform? Understanding Yugoslavia through the JNA lens” Petrović wants to show that, despite its total, coercive and highly hierarchical character, military service in the JNA was a locus of utopian imagination, which from today’s perspective of highly nationalized political communities could be perceived as the possibility of an existence and action that is not marked by ethnic, class or linguistic divisions. That possibility, however, was forever lost in the tragic ethnic conflicts during the last decade of the XX century.

Relying on her recently published monograph Utopia of the Uniform: Affective Afterlives of the Yugoslav People’s Army, Tanja Petrović will in this lecture pay special attention to the characteristics of military service in the JNA, which have connected this experience with the key political ideas of Yugoslav socialism, such as equality, solidarity, brotherhood and unity, internal internationalism. That experience was marked by a combination of drastic differences between JNA soldiers and their equality/sameness which was established through the uniform and ritualized, repetitive forms and protocols.

The lecture will attempt to answer the question of whether, despite their rigidity and limitations, these forms enabled the formation of a collective based on interdependence, solidarity and a sense of care, which at the same time is not limited by ethnic, religious, linguistic, class and other identity categories. This can potentially open the possibility to reconsider the established assumption about Yugoslavia, its socialist project and its downfall, but also to pose the question about what kind of collective/community is necessary today, in the age of fragmented social spaces and political horizons limited by identity politics.

Tanja Petrovic foto 1
FOTO: Tomaž Skale

Tanja Petrović is principal research fellow at the Institute of Culture and Memory Studies within the Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana. She is interested in the meanings and uses of Yugoslav heritage in post-Yugoslav societies, as well as in linguistic, cultural and political processes that define the reality of these societies. Petrović is the author of numerous publications in the field of linguistic anthropology, anthropology of post-socialism, gender history, labor history and memory studies.

The lecture is part of the Regional Tea party titled “Yugoslavia” which is organized together with the Academic Network for Cooperation in Southeast Europe. It takes place in the Main hall of the Institute of Social Sciences, and can also be followed online. Irena Ristić (IDN) will moderate the lecture.


Meeting ID: 985 8548 6483
Passcode: 629219


Annual program of the "Yugoslavia - Regional Tea Party" seminar

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Јавни конкурс за попуњавање радног места – директор Института друштвених наука

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30. 11. 2022.

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