This panel explores ethnographically the (re)configuration of the middle classes in post-socialist Eastern Europe. We ask how these (relatively) new forms of livelihood and subjectivity can be better understood through the theoretical lenses of our discipline.
The global middle classes have become a topic of growing interest in anthropology, a discipline that is more attentive than ever to the structural forms of socio-economic inequalities (Heiman, Freeman and Liechty 2012, Carrier and Kalb 2015). However, analyses of middle-class livelihoods and subjectivities in post-socialist Europe are still rare (Fehervary 2013). In addition, in this region, the middle classes remain largely under-analysed in the local public and academic debates that deploy the concept of class (Ost 2015). We suggest that the (re)configuration of middle classness in Eastern Europe requires further attention for several reasons: it takes place under neoliberalism, but in relation to pre-socialist and socialist ideas and realities; it benefits from the economic and political repositioning of Eastern Europe, but happens at a time when new potentially challenging relationships develop across classes and national spaces at the European and global levels. This panel invites contributions about the middle classes in post-socialist Europe. The participants are encouraged to take into consideration the following questions: • What does it mean to be middle class? • How is middle classness imagined, performed and lived? • How are local configurations of middle classness embedded in global and economic processes? • How do 'old' (pre-socialist, socialist) and 'new' (post-socialist) middle classes relate to each other? • How has the succession of political regimes and modes of production impacted on individual and inter-generational conceptualisation of middle classness? • How do socialist and neoliberal conceptualisations of the middle class intersect in the local and regional imagining of middle classness?