Bingo and Herzegovina: Understanding Social and Economic Transformations through the Prism of a Local Retail Chain in Post-socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina

What happens when a local supermarket chain replaces the economy of a former strong industry in a post-Yugoslav city? How does this transform the urban landscape, and especially the way people work and consume?

This is, in a nutshell, the focus of my research. During my fieldwork in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, I researched the origins and the influence of Bingo, a retail chain that originated in this town. Bingo is often considered a post-war miracle, a “saviour” of the economy that introduced manifold possibilities for consumption as well as for employment. The company has spread nationwide extremely rapidly so that some Bosnians jokingly refer to their country as “Bingo and Herzegovina”. However, it has also created relations of dependence, especially through the precarious employment of its workers; this has led many of them to leave for jobs in EU countries. Through this prism I analyse post-socialist continuities in the economic sphere and the forms of neoliberalization that were implemented after the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the war in the 1990s.

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