Robin Elizabeth Smith

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Independent Scholar

Grant number

Gr. 10062

Approve Date

October 2, 2020

Project Title

Smith, Robin (Independent Scholar) "Hostage barter in the EU: An ethnography of corporate financial practices"

Wine is the cash crop of the Balkans, and its roots run deep. Deep into economies as farmers living at the margins struggle to find buyers for grapes and wine, and deep into the political elite owning former Yugoslav state wineries who want to maintain control over industry and agricultural markets. My manuscript, Hostage barter in the EU: An ethnography of Balkan corporate financial practices, traces how Yugoslav-era informal financial practices have transformed into predatory ones that corporations use to manipulate farmers. I develop my theoretical concept ‘hostage barter’ to explain both how an economy otherwise considered precarious has weathered economic crisis, and what kind of post-socialist capitalism is emerging. To do so, I take the perspective of one farming and winemaking community in northwest Istria, Croatia, juxtaposing the role of trust in informal business relationships and professional association activities against the activities of a national agribusiness conglomerate owning large local wineries. Taking a historical perspective, I unpack how market experiences in this border territory shape Istrian understandings of their wine market and their perceptions of their positions within it, showing how they challenge large conglomerates actively trying to shape the market to their favor today. Taking a family business perspective to analyze corporate activities, I bring new material to anthropological analyses of alternative economic exchange practices and informal economies.