Accepted paper:

Bridging food scarcity: negotiating neoliberalism in Croatia


Nila Hofman (DePaul University)

Paper short abstract:

The reorientation of public funds in the 1990s created many hardships for Croatian workers. Many workers had their salaries withheld for months if not years as they continued to teach high school, deliver the mail and manufacture consumer goods. I examine how Croatian women responded to the challenge.

Paper long abstract:

Based on ethnographic research conducted in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia (2011-2013), this paper recalls the experiences of working Croatian women whose salaries were meager or entirely frozen in the latter part of the 1990s until the most recent neoliberal reforms in the new millennium. I discuss the strategies these women adopted to secure their livelihoods and provide caregiving to their loved ones. Specifically, I present examples of women using their knowledge about food-foraging and preparation—passed down from one generation of women to the next and symbolically associated with national patriotism—to bridge the food shortages. I am particularly interested in examining how economic realities ignited new consumer and caregiving strategies. I offer an integrated analytical framework that captures the cultural underpinnings of labor, gender and consumer experiences. By doing so, I set out to challenge the conventional approach of treating labor/gender and consumption/gender as two separate units of analysis. I demonstrate that using labor, gender and consumer analysis—as a blended approach—helps to reveal the gendered expectations of caregiving and practices enmeshed in patriotism. My study also offers examples of women's actions both transgress, and enact, neoliberal models of capitalist globalization

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