During June 2023, the project collaborators participated in scientific conferences where research results from the past years were presented.
Several presentations took place within the framework of the 16th SIEF Congress “Living Uncertainty,” held from June 7th to 10th, 2023, in Brno, Czech Republic. Nevena Škrbić Alempijević delivered a presentation titled “Rethinking Europe and imagining urban futures in Croatia,” Mirna Tkalčić Simetić presented “Walking ‘in, about and through’ research atmospheres in a post-earthquake city,” Katja Hrobat Virloget discussed “Silence between conflict memories, traumatic past and future. A reflection on the reasons and meanings of silence on the ‘Istrian exodus,'” and Saša Poljak Istenič, Neža Čebtron Lipovec, and Valentina Gulin Zrnić collectively presented research on “Pasts and futures of urban space: a case study of a small Mediterranean square.”
Valentina Gulin Zrnić and Saša Poljak Istenič participated in the “Empowering Futures: Long-term Governance, Democracy and Futures Research” conference held in Turku, Finland, from June 16th to 18th, 2023, organized by the Finnish Futures Research Centre and the University of Turku. They presented a methodological paper titled “From Ethnography to Lateral Thinking: Empowering Young People for Future-Making.”
Marina Blagaić Bergman presented a study prepared in collaboration with Valentina Gulin Zrnić titled “The solar energy transition in three Croatian towns” during the Renewable Energy and Post-Carbon Futures workshop organized by the EASA networks Energy Anthropology & Futures Anthropologies Network in Lisbon from June 15th to 17th, 2023.
Nevena Škrbić Alempijević, Rethinking Europe and imagining urban futures in Croatia (sažetak): This paper discusses how the concept of Europe – a term unavoidable in the country’s political and media discourses in the last three decades – is defined, negotiated, and sometimes challenged by the everyday experiences of people living in Croatia nowadays. The author approaches the everyday uses of the concept as mechanisms through which people construct memories of their pasts, address current uncertainties, and shape visions of their futures. She deals with ways in which the notion of Europe is materialized in Croatian cityscapes, thus becoming a part of people’s spatial practices. The analysis is based on case studies related to two cities: Zagreb and Rijeka. The first example centres on one of Zagreb’s central squares – the European Square – restructured and opened to the public on the eve of the country’s accession to the EU in 2013. The square has become a venue for events that inscribe diverse, sometimes clashing, meanings of Europe in public space. The second example follows the remaking of Rijeka into a European Capital of Culture in 2020. It points to the European dimension of city-making processes triggered by the ECOC initiative, as well as to ways in which local inhabitants use the project to reimagine the futures in/of the city. Finally, the author explores whether the approaches of critical (post-)area studies and current theories in the anthropology of space can be applied to re-examine the centre – periphery power relations that emerge in making sense of Europe in contemporary Croatian (and other) contexts.
Mirna Tkalčić Simetić, Walking “in, about and through“ research atmospheres in a post-earthquake city (sažetak): In March and December 2020 two strong earthquakes hit Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, causing the loss of one life and great material damage. Almost three years since those events, very few steps have been made towards successfull post-earthquake recovery, leaving many citizens displaced or living in materially unstable buildings. At the same time, cracks in destabilized facades permanently threaten spaces beneath them, namely sidewalks as transitory public spaces of great significance. Walking in an unsafe and unstable city adds new layers to the qualitative technique of „walking ethnography“ (Gulin Zrnić and Škrbić Alempijević 2019:30) apprehended as a mobile interview. The aim of this paper is to broaden the concept of walking ethnography to all walking practices in the fieldwork setting, including solitary research walks, walking in organized protests and walking during informal conversations. By doing so, walking becomes an entry to „knowing in, about and through atmospheres“ (Sumartojo and Pink 2019), serving as a methodological and analytical tool which enables approaching experiental worlds of others (and our own) and better understanding of „conditions in which atmospheres emerge and the meanings that people ascribe to them“ (ibid.: 6). I propose that walking research practices performed in the center of Zagreb contribute to emergence of atmospheres whose temporal, spatial and affective dimensions reflect politically and historically produced socio-spatial injustices and in different ways address general atmosphere of uncertainty. Also, such approach reveals uncertainty inherent to atmospheres themselves, uncertainty of moving through materially unstable environmet and the one regarding city futures.
Katja Hrobat Virloget, Silence between conflict memories, traumatic past and future. A reflection on the reasons and meanings of silence on the “Istrian exodus” (sažetak): After more than sixty years, the “Istrian exodus”, the massive migrations of (mostly) Italians from Yugoslavia after WWII, continues to stir emotions and provoke disputes in international politics. My research of it in Istria, which after “exodus” radically changed the population structure, has been pervaded by an omnipresent silence and strong emotions. In the dominant research silence is treated as a consequence of socio-political power relations, the relationship between dominant and marginalized social groups and memories. Indeed, silence ensues when memory cannot rely on collective memory because it is unacknowledged (Halbwachs 2001). However, silence can be seen as the consequence of emotional trauma, the impossibility of narration. By keeping silent people protect themselves and avoid everything that reminds them of the emotional trauma. If memory does not process traumas from the past, there is a danger of a “conspiracy of silence” and the collective identity can rely on collective silence. The research identified other kind of communication tactics by which people tried to retain control over emotionally burdensome memories. But emotions like fear, sadness, humiliation etc. are communicated and transmitted through signs of embodied memories (Kidron 2009). The main methodological problem is how to detect them? How to research silence, even when silence is filled with words? What impact on the traumatic silence and its future can have an ethnological research which contextualize, acknowledge and articulate the untold? These and other questions will be dealt with in the Istrian case of the memories on the post WW II “exodus”.
Saša Poljak Istenič, Neža Čebtron Lipovec i Valentina Gulin Zrnić, Pasts and futures of urban space: a case study of a small Mediterranean square (sažetak): The presentation derives from the research of “Giardinetto”, a square in the heart of the historic city of Koper/Capodistria (Slovenia). The site is an open public space, currently with no official name. It served as a parking lot for several decades until the beginning of 2022. However, the site is permeated by various historical uses, cultural practices, affects, and meanings while awaiting a thorough renewal. Because of the turbulent 20th-century history and significant demographic changes within the region, the town of Koper itself is a contested landscape. The research relied on the ethnographic methods of studying space (mapping, participant observation, interviews, historical sources), participant action research, and the photo-voice method. The material was analyzed through constituency analysis and thematic coding. The qualitative methodology provided the insights into the place attachment processes and affective atmospheres remembered or lived in the space. The research aimed to understand the complexities and layers of this historic urban space, particularly its contested nature (ethnicity, class, gender, economic activities, usage, etc.) and affects and emotions attached to the site while questioning heritage dissonance and multiple publics as well as discussing possible futures. This case study is a work in progress; research results are currently presented to the local community. The site is perceived as an urban heritage, and its renewal is discussed on various levels. These discussions also produce a particular affective atmosphere of the site that will be constitutive for Giardinetto’s future.
Valentina Gulin Zrnić i Saša Poljak Istenič, From Ethnography to Lateral Thinking: Empowering Young People for Future-Making (sažetak): Unlike many other European countries, Croatia and Slovenia have not paid much attention to the development of future thinking and have generally failed to achieve a functional standard of future literacy. This is especially evident when working with young people. While some engage in protests, social movements, or local politics for a better future and eloquently demand change, the majority remain passive, silent, or incoherent when asked about their aspirations. The feeling that they have reached their life’s impasse (Berlant) has been exacerbated – at least in our countries – by natural disasters, pandemics, and the current war on the edge of the EU, as well as by ongoing, prolonged political and economic shocks and crises that have led to insecurity and distrust in democracy. To empower young people, especially the silent majority, for future-thinking and future-making and develop their “capacity to aspire” (Appadurai), we have experimented with an approach based on the ideas and tools of lateral thinking developed by Edward de Bono. We organised workshops with university students who had previously ethnographically studied urban phenomena in selected towns. To expand their capacity, imagination, and creativity in identifying, addressing, and solving urban problems, we engaged them in developing new ideas for cities beyond the current repetitive and limited narrations in public discourses. In particular, we employed lateral thinking tools to not only inspire their future-thinking but also to prompt their agency for future-making, supporting them in developing concrete ideas for more ecological, inclusive, just, vibrant, co-designed, and participatory urban public spaces. In response to the question of how the scientific community can contribute to empowering futures, the presentation will focus on how we combine ethnography and lateral thinking tools to empower young people for future-making, assess the implications of such an approach for futures research, and reflect critically on its epistemological, practical and ethical issues.
Marina Blagaić Bergman i Valentina Gulin Zrnić, The solar energy transition in three Croatian towns (sažetak): The energy transition is a complex set of structural changes with interrelated political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, and climatic factors. In Croatia, as in other European countries, these changes are guided by EU legislation, funding, and various agendas, incentives, and examples of good practices that are then channeled through state frameworks to the local communities. In this paper, we follow and discuss the implementation of the energy transition in three Croatian localities that differ in size, number of inhabitants, national and international status and influence, as well as in the dominant processes that currently structure everyday life in these communities. The first is the town of Hvar, a small Mediterranean island community that is characterized by the seasonality of its summer tourism, which significantly affects the number of inhabitants and energy demand. The second is the town of Petrinja, a peripheral, shrinking town in the central part of Croatia that was heavily damaged in the 2020 earthquake and is currently in the state of reconstruction. The third is Zagreb, the capital, also hit by the earthquake in 2020, which functions as the center of political and administrative power and has a metropolitan region of over 1 million inhabitants. The energy transition that we focus on is the implementation of solar energy, and the main interest is to describe and better understand the ways in which top-down policies reached the local communities and merged with local initiatives concerning the transition to clean energies. We argue that differences in the economic, political, social, and cultural contexts of the three localities under analysis produce various circumstances and possibilities for the energy transition to be implemented at a general level and accepted at an everyday level. The study derives from the project Urban Futures: Imagining and Activating Possibilities in Unsettled Times (HRZZ – ARRS) and is based on analyses of national and local policies and ethnographic fieldwork on how the energy transition has been negotiated both from the top-down and from the bottom-up with an emphasis on energy justice and the nature of agency that specific actors of these processes are exhibiting.