restricted access SKLEVICKY, Lydia (1952–1990)
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517 SKLEVICKY, Lydia (1952–1990) Research assistant at the former Institut za suvremenu povijest (Institute of Contemporary History)—formerly the Institut za historiju radničkog pokreta Hrvatske (Institute of the History of the Workers’ Movement of Croatia), currently the Hrvatski institut za povijest (Croatian Institute of History)—and at the former Zavod za istra- živanje folklora (Institute of Folklore Research ), now the Institut za etnologiju i folkloristiku (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research); author of the first Croatian feminist studies, academic texts and articles in the disciplines of history, sociology and ethnology; leading feminist theoretician of the 1980s in Yugoslavia; publicist, translator and activist. Lydia Sklevicky was born on 7 May 1952 in Zagreb, the only child of Lea and Sergej Sklevicky. The Sklevickys were a middle-class family of central European origin, with roots in the nineteenth-century Russian diaspora. Lydia Sklevicky was given a rigorous ‘European’ education and studied European languages. Upon finishing high school, she enrolled at the Filozofski fakultet (Faculty of Philosophy), University of Zagreb, where she graduated in 1976 with a double major in sociology and ethnology. She was subsequently taken on as an assistant at the then Institut za historiju radničkog pokreta Hrvatske (Institute for the History of the Workers’ Movement in Croatia), affiliated to the Department of History of the Socialist Period. Although Sklevicky’s work was initially concerned with the social status of women in Croatia under socialism, her research interests quickly led her to investigate longterm processes of cultural change, with reference to historical and anthropological discourses. With exceptional professional dedication and creative curiosity, Sklevicky scoured the historical archives in order to present a range of socialist emancipatory processes within the women’s organization, Antifašistička fronta žena (Antifascist Women’s Front). One of her motivations for carrying out this research was to decode the demagogy at work in revolutionary ideology and analyze the gap between the declarative and the real, particularly the proclaimed emancipation of women alongside the maintenance of patriarchal structures in socialist Yugoslavia. In her Master’s thesis, Žene i moć—povijesna geneza jednog interesa (Women and power—the historical genesis of one interest), defended in 1984 as part of a postgradu- 518 ate degree in the sociology of culture (Faculty of Philosophy, Zagreb), Sklevicky outlined a critique of traditional historical research composed of three elements: (i) the challenging of false universalism; (ii) the need for new questions (e.g. concerning the relation of ‘the public’ to ‘the private’) and (iii) the importance of power relations and questions of sexuality for the study of cultural categories, including gender as an analytical category of historical research. Sklevicky worked on the assumption that the consistent insertion of gender into historiographical method would result in a profound rethinking, not only of the historical roles of women and men, but also of political movements and historical periodizations, as well as ‘history’ itself and its unchallenged ‘facts.’ Sklevicky’s appreciation of contextual complexity, as well as of the importance of interdisciplinarity and methodological innovation, is vividly apparent in her (unfinished ) doctoral dissertation, Emancipacija i organizacija, Uloga Antifašističke fronte žena u postrevolucionarnim mijenama društva (NR Hrvatska 1945–1953) [Emancipation and organization. The Antifascist Women’s Front and post-revolutionary social change. (People’s Republic of Croatia 1945–1953)], published posthumously in 1996 in Konji, žene, ratovi (Horses, women, wars) and edited by Sklevicky’s mentor and friend, professor Dunja Rihtman Auguštin. By carrying out an in-depth analysis of traditional attitudes towards women in times of ‘revolutionary socialist’ change, Lydia Sklevicky was at the same time furthering the cause of interdisciplinarity in the social sciences, linking historical research to ethnological and anthropological studies— including her own endeavors in these fields at the Zavod za istraživanje folklora (Institute of Folklore Research) in 1988. Addressing women’s symbolism and symbolic discourse in general customs and political rituals, iconographic ‘femininity,’ as well as fashion and other aspects of women’s lives in the everyday, Sklevicky combined scientific method, social critique and postmodern irony—undermining disciplinary clichés by insisting on both the evaluation of individual research contributions and gender-specific approaches. She discussed these themes throughout the 1980s in short essays published in various scholarly editions and daily newspapers, such as Etnološka tribina (Ethnological forum), Revija za sociologiju (Sociological review), Narodna umjetnost (Croatian journal of ethnology and folklore research), Žena (Woman), Gordogan and Časopis za suvremenu povijest (Journal for contemporary history)—all included in the Konji, žene, ratovi anthology...