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Tamara Petrović Trifunović

Tamara Petrović Trifunović is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology, University of Belgrade, where she worked as a Teaching Assistant from 2010 to 2014. She was a researcher at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade, from 2014 to 2016. She participated in several national and international research projects dealing with the study of political communication and media discourse. She is currently finishing her dissertation on the interplay of discourses of culture, class, and politics in the symbolic struggles of contemporary Serbian society. Her research interests lie in the fields of discourse studies, sociology of culture, sociology of social classifications and symbolic geography. She focuses on the interconnectedness of culture, discourse and inequality, and on the articulation of resistance in public discourse. She presented her research at many international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals and volumes. She co-edited three volumes, including Collective memory and the politics of remembrance (2015, in Serbian). She is a member of the European Sociological Association and the Group for Social Engagement Studies.

Symbolic Struggles in Serbian Public Discourse: Between (and Beyond) Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism

During and after the dramatic period of disintegration of Yugoslavia, the polyvalent element of ‘culture’ (comprising manners, sophistication, education, ‘good taste’, but also urbanity, cosmopolitan and/or pro-European political orientation), was articulated as the important form of resistance to the nationalist politics of Milošević’s regime. Numerous studies identified cultural distinction as one of the most tenacious discursive tools in creating symbolic divisions in contemporary Serbian society (Jansen 2005, Spasić 2006; Simić 2012; Spasić and Petrović 2013, etc.). Conflicts rooted in different political orientations are intertwined with discourses on culture, constituting political cleavages and the antagonism of two cultural models (a variation on the ‘culture war’ between the ‘two Serbias’ – the ‘nationalist’ and the ‘cosmopolitan’ Serbia). The paper investigates how the complex notion of ‘culture’ can serve as a ‘multi-purpose weapon’ of symbolic struggles in public discourse (Živković 2011). This type of language of cultural evaluation and exclusion provides a mode for articulation of resistance to the established social order, however, the one which might undermine solidarity between social actors, ignoring the fact that cosmopolitan orientation and belonging are not equally available and empowering for everyone along the social structure (Calhoun 2008). On the other side, attempts to overcome this dichotomy can be used to create the hybrid discourse which functions as a tool to legitimate the new type of nationalism in the Serbian political scene. It is therefore important to shed light on the symbolic mechanisms through which socioeconomic grievances and political contestations are discursively translated into the ‘culture war’ between the First and the Other Serbia by both sides in the symbolic conflict. Rooted in van Dijk’s approach to critical discourse analysis, the elaborate study of public debates over the symbolic divisions in Serbian society was conducted on a corpus of media texts in daily newspapers and weeklies from 2001 to 2015.