(Re) Producing the Nation: The Politics of Reproduction in Serbia in Serbia in the 1980's and 1990's

Rada Drezgic

PhD Thesis 2004

The dissertation looks at the struggle for hegemonic control over the meaning of reproduction and sexuality in Serbia, 1986-1997, in the context of the ideological and socio-economical changes created by the collapse of socialism. The dissertation focuses on changing meanings of reproduction and reproduction's intersection with the concepts of gender, sexuality, and nation. Such a focus is determined by two considerations: 1) gender organization in patriarchal societies is based primarily on different roles that men and women are believed to play in reproduction; and 2) in almost all post-socialist societies, discourses and policies have been produced aimed at changing reproductive practices of specific targeted populations; not simply women, but women belonging to particular groups (ethnic, religious, class).

During the fieldwork in Serbia, multiple methods for data collection were used: archival research, participant observation, semi-structured interviews and life histories. All material was subjected to discourse/textual analysis, while the interpretation combines economic, political and symbolic approaches.

The population discourses and closely related abortion debates are at the center of the analysis. I argue that for the Serbian nationalism in the 1980's and 1990 demographic issues were associated with the concerns related to continuity of the nation in its temporal and special dimension. Demographic discourses also projected a specific vision of modernity recreating gendered images of the state and nation, of "self" and the "other". Finally, they contributed to the processes of the radical social change by redefining the meaning of reproduction and by reshaping gender roles.

This research has also unrevealed common epistemological properties shared by population discourses; the dominant discourses on gender and gender relations; and nationalist discourses (about origin and development of nations, and about survival of and threat to the national 'stock'). Consequently, these discourses emerge as not only mutually dependent, but actually, mutually constitutive.

Modernist bias that allowed demography to embrace 'scientific objectivity' in representation of population trends also allowed nationalist discourses to embrace images of 'backwardness' and 'progress'. An inherent gender dimension of this bias allowed both demographic and nationalist discourses to employ the same hegemonic images of masculinity and femininity.