Situated at the bottom of the Istrian peninsula, (late) socialist Pula, was a developed industrial town. The main and most famous industrial facilities, the Uljanik shipyard and the textile factory Arena Trikotaža, can be analysed through a gender perspective, which is also preserved in the city’s modern-day memory of the socialist period, usually evoked as “mother working at Arena Trikotaža and father at Uljanik”. While the female perspective on (post-)socialist labour in Pula has been researched in a paper on textile workers by Chiara Bonfiglioli, the gendered perspective on the history of the Uljanik shipyard, both male and female, is non-existing. While it would be expected that as a predominantly “male” company, Uljanik would employ only a small number of women in offices, medical facilities, as well as in the workers’ canteen or as cleaners, women also worked as welders, turners or painters. This paper deals with the female experience of working in the Uljanik shipyard in late socialism and during the transition to capitalism in the early 1990s. The first part of the paper is based on the reports from the factory bulletin on female workers, focusing on the representation of women performing “male” jobs. It also pays attention to the celebration of the International Women’s Day as the most gendered celebration within the factory. The second part of the paper explores the memory of working in Uljanik through interviews with former Uljanik female workers, focusing on the changes that happened after the fall of socialism and the break-up of the country. The main question we will try to answer is to what extent traditional, biased and patriarchal patterns can be found in the female experience in the shipyard, as well as to what extend (and if) the socialist society managed to overcome them, in comparison to the re-established conservative state of the 1990s.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Anita Buhin obtained her PhD in History in 2019 at the European University Institute. She is part of the Centre for Cultural and Historical Research of Socialism at the Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, where she currently works on the project Microstructures of Socialism on the topic of workers’ culture in the 1970s and 1980s. Her main interest lies in the cultural history of socialism in Yugoslavia, dealing both with popular culture and workers’ culture. She published several articles on this topic and presented her work at numerous international conferences.
Sara Žerić is a PhD student of History at the IOS Regensburg, where she works on her thesis on Yugoslav “guest-workers” from Germany and their influence on Yugoslav modernization. She is a volunteer assistant at the Centre for Cultural and Historical Research of Socialism at the Juraj Dobrila University of Pula. She collaborated with Chiara Bonfiglioli on her research of aktiv žena in late socialist Croatia, with whom she published a research paper.