Rajković, Ivan. From Familial to Familiar – Corruption, Political Intimacy, and the Reshaping of Relatedness in Serbia.
In Reconnecting State and Kinship, edited by Tatjana Thelen and Erdmute Alber. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 130-152.
This paper chronicles how inhabitants of Kragujevac, Serbia present themselves as unrelated, yet similar to the corrupt politicians, inasmuch as they also have to care for their families, and therefore understandably, cheat and steal. I argue that, within the partial involution of social bonds that market economy creates, two aspects of local cultural intimacy get progressively divorced: familiality (the basis of collective identification) is denied, whereas familiarity (recognition of shared avoidance of state rules) is intensified. The key to this process is a massive shift to idioms of nuclear family, that underline not the sameness but equivalence of self-interests as the ultimate explanation of social life. Here, people are recognized as responsible for their families and engaged in interest-driven activities of all kinds to fulfil that responsibility. Establishing a homology between politicians and ‘ordinary people’, familiarisation of interest creates a space of coexistence and mutuality between the citizens and the bureaucrats, and a critical resource for making politics close and ‘sincere’ again. But, at the same time, it marks all claims of common identity to seem as false and exploitative. Everyone works for themselves and their own families, my interlocutors claimed, and this is what makes our interests comparable. But precisely because of that, they can never share the same interests. Harking back to Thatcher’s infamous saying that there is ‘no thing such as society: only individual men, women, and families’ – I suggest that familiarity is a relational modality in which resemblance is recognized, whereas identity is denied, instituting new forms of bonds that go beyond the collectivist ethos of nation states.
Ivan Rajković: Familial to familiar (PDF)