"Socialist Yugoslavia in The Strict Sense Of The Term: Every-Daily Inscriptions and the Economies of Secret-ing, 1950-1974" by Ana Miljanic
This dissertation performs a diary-side ethnographic reading of socialist Yugoslavia of the period 1950-1974. It offers a reassessment of the diary-form, starting with an analysis of approaches in historiography, literary studies and theories of the advent of the modern self, by proposing and demonstrating a reading that takes into full consideration the understandings and practice of diary-keeping in terms of anthropological debates. The epistemological concerns surrounding the questions of writing and the field, and the intricate place of the diary genre, of being there, and in the ethnographic archive are situated within close readings of discrete diaries written in socialist Yugoslavia of the period.
The diary-form taken in the strict sense implies an account that argues with the reading of diary texts and with “diaristic evidence” and, in this case, depends on the “law of genre.” Its concerns is with the genre practiced, hence authored, by individual diarists,. This ethnographic engagement is rooted in the practice of collecting (published, archival and private sources) and further tracing of the diary texts, by close reading and with attention to the problematic of textuality. Two quasi-concepts of “every-daily inscriptions” and “economies of secret-ing” are posited as generic marks and inform an analytical approach that focuses on the historicity and publicness of the diary-forms at hand. Thus defined, as different textual practices of serial diurnal self-recording that adhere to calendar marks, diaries are not to be substituted for by the ideologies of the everyday, nor simply reduced to chronologies of (general) events. In focus here is the diary-form’s capacity to create withdrawal, not only in terms of publicness, but what is inscribed or marked in the text as the folding of a secret. I read the diary as a place of dissemination and circulation of (public) textual forms. In this way, in the work of this dissertation that depends on diaries as its primary object and source of study, attention is moved to scenes of the social life of the form. It presents the classificatory logic of autobiographical and other documents, public forms, and the literary and (personal) archive-creating practices of diarists.
The textual historicity is read within this logic of diaristic inscription and the practices specific to the form, such as withdrawal, re-reading, publishing and keeping. The dissertation probes the question of periodization in terms of the diary-form that is neither a culturally specific practice, nor posited as expressive of the period. It is a study that makes visible a set of contingencies, and thus addresses the complex question of the forms, historicity and historical consciousness inscribed by the diarists’ textual practices outside heritage discourses, histories of the present and the approaches of memory studies.
The four parts of the dissertation are curated from within case studies to address the forms of authority and authorial discourses in socialist Yugoslavia where diary-side, or, what is considered to be a subjective source, subsumes the institutional as well as the realms of the “ordinary” along with that of dissent, where studies of the authoritative forms are more frequently directed. The ethnographic work of the dissertation and its arguments are situated within the logic of “diaristic evidence,” where the strictness of the diary-side reading of socialist Yugoslavia puts forth (auto)biographical political authority as a form of political power and its representational logic, the forms of ambassadorial representation of Yugoslav exceptionalism, the claims of youth and generationally authoritative interpretations, the forms of literary authority, and testimonial diaristic accounts.