This essay seeks to deepen our understanding of women’s agency in socialist societies. Focusing on socialist and post-socialist Slovenia, it explores the ways agency reveals itself in interviews with and biographical portraits of the socio-politically active women – or “political workers” (politične delavke), as they were called during Yugoslav socialism – Mara Rupena Osolnik and Aleksandra Kornhauser Frazer. In these texts, agency unfolds as a mosaic of multiple, naturally intertwined activities and engagements aimed at the common good and at improving the position of women and other socially marginalized groups. This kind of agency – understood as the ability to act and the meaningfulness of acting on several fronts – vanished in the wake of the loss of the state socialist project, together with the term politična delavka that designated it. Furthermore, in the post-socialist refashioning of biographies of these women, the socialist state has increasingly been depicted as restricting rather than encouraging their activities in multiple fields. In addition, their biographies became fragmented by stressing only certain parts of their agency during socialism while omitting, marginalizing, or questioning others. This narrowing down of what counts as meaningful political work, the essay argues, contributes to delegitimizing, forgetting, and disabling modes of political and social engagement that were possible in the context of state socialism.
Petrović, Tanja and Trbovc, Jovana Mihajlović
"Agency, Biography, and Temporality: (Un)making Women’s Biographies in the Wake of the Loss of the Socialist Project in Yugoslavia,"
Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women's & Gender Studies: Vol. 21:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.cortland.edu/wagadu/vol21/iss1/5