Framed by questions concerning the normal biography and its distortion in late modernity, this article examines the biographical narratives of two different generations of Czechs. Through a parallel analysis of retrospective and future-oriented imaginations of life, the article explores the extent to which the two generations' narratives are structured along the expectations implicated in the normal biography and the kinds of disturbances to the “normal“ pattern that surface in these accounts. Moreover, it explores intergenerational dynamics by examining the narratives' generational tropes and the level of generational reflexivity they display. I argue that while their key tropes of narration have changed substantially, people of both generations share an adherence to the normal biography as well as a lack of interest in placing their own biography in relation to the history of the nation.
Narratives of hope, loss, and "normality" across two generations of Czechs
Complex intersections of the public and the private in the South Bohemian countryside
This article discusses notions of "public" and "private" in the postsocialist Czech Republic through a comparative examination of food practices in families and in the canteen of an agricultural cooperative in South Bohemia. Different meanings of public and private will be outlined, making up a complex set of referential contexts for the interaction between canteen personnel and customers. Analysis of daily life in the canteen revealed that the personnel tended to personalize customer relations. It is argued that this inclination cannot be explained first and foremost as the influence of market-oriented postsocialist public debates on public-private relations. The canteen is a key provider of services to the community but is not run according to market principles or driven by the logic of profit. Its friendly atmosphere is predicated on the moral practice and personal skills of its employees and is embedded in local cultures of food sharing. By exploring daily practice and interaction in the canteen, the article critically examines implications for the feminist concept of emotional labor that have emerged in studies on capitalist, profit-driven enterprises.
Perspectives from postsocialist Europe and beyond
Haldis Haukanes and Susanna Trnka
The last two decades have witnessed a phenomenal expansion of scholarly work on collective memory. Simultaneously, increasing anthropological attention is being paid to collective visions of the future, albeit through a range of disparate literatures on topics including development, modernity and risk, the imagination, and, perhaps ironically, nostalgia. In this introduction to this special section, we bring together analyses of postsocialist visions of pasts and futures to shed light upon the cultural scripts and social processes through which different temporal visions are ascribed collective meaning, employed in the creation of shared and personal identities, and used to galvanize social and political action.