Andrew Gilbert

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

McMaster U.

Grant number

Gr. 9535

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Gilbert, Dr. Andrew C., McMaster U., Hamilton, Canada - To aid research on 'Labors of Collaboration, Labors of Representation: Ethnography of Labor Activism in Postsocialist Bosnia-Herzegovina'

This research project joins recent attempts at experimental collaboration to ask what kinds of insight, rapport and evidence can be produced when two anthropologists enter a site together, in a space already inhabited by multiple forms of collaboration, cooperation and competition among industrial workers, activists, labor organizers and politically engaged local academics? Our research site is the worker-occupied and partially operational detergent factory ‘Dita’ in the city of Tuzla in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has emerged as a kind of test-case for the possibilities and limits of a new labor politics in this postsocialist and postwar region. We begin from our distinct but complementary interests in the political anthropology of the Balkans to pursue the creative possibilities of collaboration through a research method that draws inspiration from recent experiments with graphic forms of representation to facilitate the emergence of new perspectives. We argue that this shift from solitary fieldwork to collaborative ethnography offers a fresh vantage point from which we can pose substantive empirical questions, such as: What happens to labor-based forms of political action in the context of global deindustrialization (and specifically in a postsocialist world)? What forms of politics and relationships are possible amidst the global loss of mass utopia which were so central to the state-centered Fordist frameworks of both socialism and liberalism? What creative forms of engagement might grow up around a socialist factory decimated by postwar privatization, and the complex of machinery, chemicals, relations and people that compose it? Finally, what forms of ethnographic and para-ethnographic representation may be necessary in order to capture this colossal industrial environment and the complex entanglements between people and things that enable the production of commercial goods and political possibilities?