Research Group Urban Heritage

Industrial Heritage Sites in Post-Socialist Serbia: Between Manufacturing the Past and Constructing the Future

Srdjan Mandic

The future today is not what it used to be

The recent turbulent breakdown of former socialist Yugoslavia in the year 2000 has resulted in change of paradigms from industrial to service based economy. In fact, 98 major industrial centres and factories in Serbia have been shut down and the number of people employed in industry has dropped from 970.000 to 370.000, the same number as in 1961. Departed from once future-oriented industrial society, Serbian institutions are currently introducing past-oriented heritage industry projects to revive current idling urban situation in single factory towns across the country. At the same time, Serbian academia is discussing industrial heritage as a rather romanticized narrative from the predominantly historic preservation perspective. However, outside the institutional and academic discourse is a liminal space filled with struggles of former factory workers, their families and single factory town citizens. High unemployment rates with no sign of improvement, experience of failing privatizations and loss of jobs, erosion of moral standards and reduction of workers’ rights, and agonizing process of struggle against the old way of life, have resulted in lack of means for the town dwellers to control the probabilities and create active plans for future. The stories and visions of town dwellers are not included in the dominant discourse on industrial heritage.

Therefore, this significant space in between, characterized by the absence of future as changed concept of time in the framework of industrial heritage in Serbia, is the main focus of my research.