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Title: Infrastructures of continuity and change :a material culture approach to finance, heating and maintenance in Belgrade homes
Authors: Johnson, Charlotte Elizabeth
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis explores the relationship between people, their things and socio-economic change. Based on Belgraders’ experiences of Serbia’s economic transition, it focuses on the material impacts produced inside homes as objects are revalued, ownership lines are redrawn and domestic space is reconfigured. These material alterations are linked to social changes as they provoke residents to reflect on how their state, neighbourhoods or families should be organised. I focus on five residential buildings built at different points in the city’s development, from 1939 to 2010. I study the buildings’ archives and the activities of today’s residents to trace relationships constructed through infrastructure, drawing attention to three types of systems that permeate domestic space. I follow the consumer credit industry’s IT architecture and find how financial value is created as households manage their day to day living. I explore the municipal heating system’s liberalisation and find it is reshaping ideas about social good and individual autonomy. I study the buildings' communal spaces and find an institutional vacuum in which residents self-organise to maintain their buildings and manage social relations. I argue that these infrastructures - finance, heating and maintenance - are the basis for both continuity and change as they reach into the domestic sphere to shape the relationship between people and things, but are themselves reworked. Supplementing my anthropological approach with literature from STS and economic geography, I find that the regulatory reforms partially rework the fabric of Belgrade homes. This leads me to argue that transition changes the nature of things and can be interpreted as a loss of ontological certainty, but I show that this is an uneven reworking of materials. Visions of the socialist good life, corruption from the 1990s turmoil and aspirations of liberalism can all be found scripted into the contemporary organisation of housing in Belgrade.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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