In the socialist Yugoslavia, all young men would spend one to three years serving in the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), far away from their homes, in an ethnically and culturally diverse setting and in circumstances that made their everyday, their experience of the army and their memories of it very much alike, despite their different ethnic, social and educational backgrounds. Several generations of men across the former Yugoslavia still share this experience and memory of it, and insist on their meaningfulness. These are largely the same man who fought against other during Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.
The lecture discusses the meanings this gendered, collective national experience and the ways it is remembered today. It aims to complicate the ways in which we usually understand the work of a total, all-male institution based on universal conscription. Moreover, the lecture discusses the aspects that make the military service in the JNA a part of Yugoslav modernizing project. It also asks how this collective experience of serving in the Yugoslav military challenges dominant narratives through which Yugoslavia and its dissolution are historicized.
Lecture by Tanja Petrovic, University of Ljubljana