Reconnecting State and Kinship

By Tatjana Thelen; Erdmute Alber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
From Familial to Familiar
Corruption, Political Intimacy, and the Reshaping
of Relatedness in Serbia

IVAN RAJKOVIĆ

In the spring of 2012, I researched a number of state-funded education classes in the town of Kragujevac in central Serbia organized for workers that were made redundant by a local car factory. Mostly blue-collar workers in their forties and fifties, seen as unemployable on the sparse local job market, they were often able to negotiate various evasions of rules while staying on the payment lists. They skipped class for several weeks in a row in order to do informal work or left class early. And while such behavior provoked disagreements with the organizers, both the participants and the instructors justified it through elaborate references to the bigger, and supposedly more serious, corruption of the local politicians. Commonly, the notion mobilized here was one of a family, for which both the ordinary people and the politicians had to provide.

A class in information technology skills held in March of the same year is a case in point here. Just after the class began, one of the participants, a fiftyyear-old man, approached the instructor, Dejan,1 who was in his midtwenties, and shyly asked to be excused. “It is okay,” Dejan anxiously told him, “but what if everyone left?” Embarrassed, the man took his things and left the room. Noting his discomfort, Mira, a loud, elegant lady and a former warehouse packer, intervened:

Mira: You have to understand him, Dejan. Nobody is here by choice.
He’s a man, and he has to provide for his house, kids. His wife is

-130-

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