Accepted paper:

The subversive meaning of "living beyond one's means"? Demand for consumer credits in socialist and neoliberal Sarajevo


Zaira Tiziana Lofranco (University of Milan)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores demand for consumer credits and proclivity to “live beyond one’s means” that since socialism enabled Sarajevans to bypass top-down imposed model and spaces of consumption and convey socio-economic repositioning. How the last financial crisis challenged this consumption strategy?

Paper long abstract:

The paper acknowledges the demand for credit in formal market as a distinctive feature of Sarajevans consumption practices both in socialist and in neoliberal time. Despite the enduring situation of institutional instability,conflict and consequent downward socio-economic mobility, the demand for consumer credit is generated by needs that goes beyond the mere biological survival. Using ethnographic data, the paper will document the "cultural production of necessity of credit" that indeed is driven by Sarajevans' strategies of "self-maintenance" and socio-economic repositioning. Furthermore credits also make accessible foreign commodities and allow physical or symbolical escapades from the space of consumption delimited by socialist, ethnonationalist and EU legislation about goods and people cross border mobility. Thus, both in socialist and neoliberal time, "living beyond one's means" emerges as a crucial strategy to circumvent the disciplinary power over needs and desire exerted by shifting institutions providing credits like socialist state, post-war donors and later on bank corporations. The paper will then consider how Sarajevans' agency, underpinning the consumption strategy of "living beyond one's means", had been challenged by the recent financial crisis that discloses indebtness as the negative side of consumer credit in a free and deregulated market of money.

panel P048
Cross-border consumption and collaboration in post-Yugoslav everyday life