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1980s and the creation of the new cultural field: Slovenian civil society between Nationalist policies and intercultural involvement


The project analyses and reconstructs the emergence of the new cultural field as result of social and political changes in 1980’s Slovenia. This is the most neglected aspect of the social and political changes in Slovenia, even though it is key to understanding the democratic transformation of the country from a federal unit of Yugoslavia to an independent country. The initiators of the production of a new cultural field were new social movements and civil society groups that self-identified as the "alternative movements."

This project analyses the roots of those movements in political and social changes since the 1960’s, but primarily focuses on the developments in the 1980s and specifically on the social and cultural practices, organisational forms, and social and political ideas and imaginaries of the alternative movements in the Slovenian institutional setting and in the broader Yugoslav and (East) European context. Analysing the historical developments unavoidably involves taking issue with existing historiographical and political interpretations of the democratisation of Slovenia.

The central research objectives are:

- to reconstruct the networks (people, events, production),

- to study interpersonal and published exchanges (personal archives and collections), and

- to understand the complexities of interpersonal, social and political dynamics (where necessary also international connections) in the studied period.

The objectives are operationalized through a set of specific questions delimiting the research’s specific problems:

- How to identify, reconstruct and analyze the circumstances and conditions for the creation of oppositional art practices and their innovative role and potential in political transformation in Slovenia?

- What are the crucial events of the 1980s? Who were the central protagonists? What were crucial outputs (form and content)?

- How can we use the artistic and theoretical production as a historiographical source?

- How to reconstruct not only the network of events/protagonists/sources but also the pluri-potentiality of the historical moment (1980s)?

- What are protagonists’ archives/collections made of? What can be reconstructed today? How has the 1980s dissent legacy been incorporated into contemporary political and media discourses? What emphases have been lost, invented, repurposed?

Based on the questions above, the proposed project identifies the following thematic clusters to serve as a thematic guide in detailing case studies:

- Slovenian democratization process in Yugoslav and international contexts, similarities and specificities of democratization processes with regard to other Eastern European countries.

- Politics of political and ideological interpretation of cultural opposition in the 1980s.

- Changing the interpretation of the role of “the alternative” and the canonization of “independence”.

- The formation of new hegemonic ideological and mythical narratives and their impact on the understanding and self-understanding of actors and interpreters of Slovenian democratization in historical perspective after 1991.

- Methodological and epistemological shifts in historiography, social sciences and humanities, and their impact on the democratization process and interpretations thereof.

To do so, the research team:

- Analyses social, cultural, and political practices of the alternative movements in Slovenia in the 1980’s with special focus on their ideas, theoretical work, and influences of and dialogue with the recent historical and contemporary intellectual production in the world, which has hitherto not been studied;

- Reconstructs the little-known participation of the Slovenian activists/authors/artists in Yugoslav and international alternative and oppositional networks;

- Rethinks the process of historization and de-historization of the Slovenian democratization processes, a key part of which was the production of a new cultural field

Thus, the research team investigates the relationship between canonical historicisation and nationalisation of the history of “Slovenian independence” and the perception of oppositional practices, archives, memories and life stories of the protagonists of cultural opposition.

Research Project