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"The Gastarbeiters Built Everything for Us." Migrations, Memories, and Emptiness in the Dalmatian Hinterland: Essay by Sara Žerić and Ulf Brunnbauer

17.04.2024 Publications

Sara Žerić and Ulf Brunnbauer (both IOS) have published an essay in Open Access in Contemporary Southeastern Europe: "The Gastarbeiters Built Everything for Us." Migrations, Memories, and Emptiness in the Dalmatian Hinterland. In: Contemporary Southeastern Europe, 11:1, 2024.

This essay traces the intersections between migration, (de)industrialization, and memory in Imotska krajina in Croatia and western Herzegovina, contiguous regions with a long and rich history of out-migration. Building mainly on interviews and recent field observations, we argue that the meaning of migration has substantially changed since the so-called gastarbeiter migrations. In the 1970s and 80s, labor migrants invested, among other things, in new industrial facilities. Investment of this kind is uncommon today because the region has suffered almost total deindustrialization. Most of the gastarbeiter factories have not survived. Yet, the abandoned factory buildings, monuments to gastarbeiters, and the recollections of migrants and their families sustain vivid memories of migration and the hopes as well as fears connected with it. Migration creates emptiness but also new “somethings”. We argue that memories are another important form of social remittance that not only transform a place but also perpetuate migration.

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