Dissertation Abstracts

Social Changes and the Generational Differences in the Formation of Collective Memories

Author: Tanja Vuckovic Juros, tanja.vuckovic.juros@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Indiana University, United States
Supervisor: Brian Steensland
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: collective memories , generations , Yugoslavia , young
Areas of Research: Social Transformations and Sociology of Development


The present study examined how collective memories on a recent difficult past were formed among young people coming of age in a society transitioning from a totalitarian regime through an authoritarian state to a nascent democratic society. I used textual analysis to examine the presentations of the communist Yugoslavia institutionalized in the Croatian history textbooks and newspapers in 1991-2007, and I compared them to the accounts of the Yugoslav past among the Croatian transitional (born 1978-81) and post-communist generation (born 1989-91). These two generations were distinct in their childhood and formative years' experiences of Yugoslavia and post-Yugoslav Croatia, but both depended on secondary sources such as parents, school and the media for their evaluations of the Yugoslav period. The present study found that the textbook and newspaper presentations, primarily shaped by the 1990s nation-building elites, mainly portrayed Yugoslavia in negative political, economic and ethnic terms. However, findings from 72 in-depth interviews with the two young Croatian generations suggested that the influence of the dominant negative re-evaluations was limited, particularly among the vocationally educated individuals who were least exposed to the institutionalized presentations of the Yugoslav past. In contrast, the young Croats, independently of their differences, generally dominantly evaluated Yugoslavia in positive social terms, which was a perspective obtained from their parents and older people recounting their good lives in Yugoslavia. This perspective was appropriated not only because its sources were emotionally available and credible, but also because the social lens on Yugoslavia helped the young Croats make sense of their lives in the social insecurities of the contemporary Croatian society. Therefore, the present study showed how different beliefs on the Yugoslav past, available from different sources, were appropriated and used by the young Croats. I also proposed Interactional Model of Collective Memories Formation, which elaborated how the influences on the beliefs of the past were formed at the macro, micro and the level of social interaction. Finally, this study also illuminated how active actors reinterpreted the presentations of the past, thus demonstrating how individuals can use culture in diverse and adept ways.