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Close Encounter with US Capitalism: Economic Imagery of the West in Yugoslav Travel Writings

Sat, June 15, 11:15am to 1:00pm, University of Zagreb, Room A122


The presentation discuss selected Yugoslav literary travelogues from the United States, marked by the specific socialist perspective on capitalist West in which "America" and ‘’capitalism’’ gain their cultural meaning in the specific genre of ideological and economical intermediation. Though ‘’America’’, ‘’the West’’ and ‘’capitalism’’ existed in Yugoslav cultural imagination in various forms and genres, textual articulation of the real physical experience of the United States brought another layer of reflection on the Cold War culture; its tensions, negotiations and alignments between the East and the West. By analyzing selected Yugoslav travel writings (Dedijer, Flaker, Matković, Jelušić, Blažević and others), the presentation will discuss specific ‘’economic imagery’’ (Peter Armour) of the United States which geopolitical and cultural perception is marked by what Slavenka Drakulić defines as "socialist eye", meaning an ideological optic of the Eastern European observer of the West which can be also further conceptualized and problematized in these examples as the perception of a "Yugoslav eye". Writings of Yugoslav travel writers show that when they were writing about their experience, they put the dominant focus on consumer culture and ''spaces of capital'' (David Harvey), thus their experience of the United States is necessarily related to hostile economic imagery of capitalism, often articulated trough mythical narratives, images and symbols. But things became more complex when capitalism was perceived through this ‘’Yugoslav eye’’ as a set of cultural forms that travelers were familiar with in their everyday Yugoslav life. Following David Harvey's theoretic set of capitalist space production and the specific experience of time in capitalism, the presentation will reflect cultural tensions between socialism and capitalism in broader ‘’structure of feelings’’ (Raymond Williams) of the cultural Cold War.