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Accepted Paper:

Is it possible to retire from activism? Aging and activism in the (post-)Yugoslav space  
Magdalena Sztandara (Jagiellonian University)

Paper Short Abstract:

Drawing on my personal experiences within the activist network, this paper explores the relationship between aging and activism. It focuses on fears and struggles, but also on hope and lessons learned from activism and how and whether activism changes the aging process and its experience.

Paper Abstract:

The activists of the Women in Black network have been involved in disobedience and activism in the (post-)Yugoslav space for decades. They are aging and, along with them, their activism is aging. Their situation and experience point to the need to supplement previous reflections on activism, which often neglect personal, social, and political relations over time. In the popular imagination, activism is often associated with youth, making it even more difficult to recognize the struggles of aging activists and improve their visibility in public spaces and political discourses. On the streets, in addition to the traitors and the toms, they hear more and more ‘old hags’. Ageism is also experienced within activist movements and organizations themselves. It seems to be forgotten that age, but also the course of life of each generation can be important experiences in understanding political participation and activism itself. The experience of aging activists has led to tensions between being an activist and a citizen of the so-called retirement age. For many activists, being old seems to be a privilege and a luxury they cannot afford.

This is not only because there is still a lot to do and that there is always no one to continue their decades of work, but also because of economic uncertainty.

Following the experiences and ‘political biographies’ of an older generation of activists in the (post-)Yugoslav space, I attempt to shed light on the relationships between age and activism and the possibility of ‘retiring’ from activism.

Panel P238
Becoming/ being an activist: reflections on a key political subjectivity of late capitalism
  Session 2 Friday 26 July, 2024, -