Accepted Paper:

When all that is solid does not melt into air: the materiality of political struggle in the Bosnian detergent factory "Dita"  

Author:

Larisa Kurtovic (University of Ottawa)

Paper short abstract:

What happens to capitalist logics of valuation when waiting becomes labor, and a ruin of socialist industrialism, a site of political action and cooperative economic enterprise? I explore this question through an ethnography of workers’ occupation of a detergent factory in northern Bosnia.

Paper long abstract:

What happens to capitalist logics of valuation and productivity when waiting becomes labor, and a ruin of socialist industrialism, a site of political action and cooperative economic enterprise? This paper interrogates the political force and material grounding of alternative conceptions of value and productivity, by focusing on the "Dita" detergent-producing factory in the northern Bosnian industrial town of Tuzla. Formerly a part of once successful chemical industrial complex, "Dita" was nearly decimated by postwar privatization—the violence of which transformed the factory into a cradle of a burgeoning new labor movement. For years, Dita's workers had been occupying the factory grounds in an effort to preserve what is left of a now a largely devastated industrial park. In summer 2015, with the help of their court appointed bankruptcy manager, they re-started the production of its iconic products, in order to prove to the public and potential investors their factory was still viable. Their strategy in some ways fell in line with the principles of marketization, particularly by imagining the solution to Dita's predicament through the sale of the company to a foreign investor. Yet the workers' self-organized effort to produce a viable future could have never happened had they fully accepted neoliberal criteria for ascertaining value. My paper demonstrates how the workers' postsocialist imagination and their affective attachment to the materiality of their nearly decimated industrial park, actually made their struggle both imaginable and possible.

Panel P051
Works that matter (not): valuing productivity through and against the market