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  • Designing self-management: objects and spaces of everyday life in post-war Yugoslavia

Rebernjak, Rujana, 2018, Thesis, Designing self-management: objects and spaces of everyday life in post-war Yugoslavia PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was often labelled a country “in-between”. Following the split with Stalin in 1948, socialist Yugoslavia established its “third way”, one that was based on workers’ self-management as an alternative to both capitalism, as well as to Soviet-style communism. Yugoslavia’s “in-betweenness” was emphasised in public rhetoric and propaganda during its existence, and has since been carefully examined by economic, political, social and cultural historians.
This thesis explores this narrative about Yugoslav exceptionalism through the lens of design practice, asking to what extent has the experience of its unique system of self-management been “designed”. It positions design practice as an active agent in the processes of construction of Yugoslav socialism, through an in-depth analysis of important public projects, mass produced objects, design institutions, exhibitions and publications. Designing Self-Management offers a new understanding of post-war modernity in Yugoslavia by contextualising the analysis of design practice within the structures of self-management and, vice versa, by situating the study of self-management within the framework of design.
To understand the impact design had on the experinece of self-management, this thesis positions the study of Yugoslav socialism within wider discussions about post-war modernity and seeks to reassess its claim to exceptionalism. On the one hand, the Yugoslav economic and social system that was based on workers’ councils proposed a more authentic and democratic form of socialism, in contrast to the dictatorial regimes of Eastern Europe. However, the success of self-management was indexed to the materialisation of the “good life” that was characterised by Western-style consumerism. Between 1955 and 1975, the Yugoslav experience of everyday life was shaped by modern mass-produced goods, mass housing, increased mobility, and the proliferation of pop-culture, all provided through the system of self-management. This lived experience of post-war modernity was not unique to Yugoslavia. Instead, it was part of broader social, cultural, political and economic processes that shaped everyday life on both sides of the Cold War divide.
Within this context, Designing Self-Management examines the role of design in shaping Yugoslav post-war modernity, focusing on the spaces and places of everyday life, and the
objects that defined them: from kiosks to washing machines; from telephones to public seating systems; from mass housing blocks to TVs and radios. Each chapter examines a specific space through a case-study approach. Chapter 1 focuses on design practice within the workplace through the work of designers in Iskra and Rade Končar companies. The second analyses spaces of consumption through printed pages of Svijet magazine and physical spaces of department stores, supply centres and the Zagreb Fair. In the third chapter, the home is examined through normative discussions about kultura stanovanja (domestic culture), as well as DIY practices shaped by Naš dom and Sam svoj majstor magazines. The final chapter looks at public space through K67 kiosk designed by Saša Mächtig as well as UNI87 seating system produced by Jadran company.
All four chapters explore the relationship between design discourse and practice, government policies and propaganda, and consumers-self-managers, and argue that the material culture of everyday life shaped Yugoslav citizens’ understanding of and compliance with self-management. This builds on research undertaken across public and private archives, such as the Archive of Yugoslavia in Belgrade, Rade Končar Archive in Zagreb, Croatian State Archive in Zagreb, Ljubljana Historical Archive in Kranj, Archive of the Technical Museum and Museum of Architecture and Design in Ljubljana.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Funders: AHRC, Frankopan Fund
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2018 15:19
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2018 10:24
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3480

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