An Essay on the Anthropology of Underground Economy: The Economic Behavior of the Tenants of a Building in Dorcol

  • Ivan Kovačević Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
  • Dragana Antonijević Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
Keywords:
underground economy, anthropology of informal earning, economic microsystems, case study, Belgrade

Abstract

The paper represents a case study of the economic behavior of the tenants of a building in downtown Belgrade. The data was gathered through ethnographic methods of observation and informal interviews. The external indicators of spending, as well as the researcher’s knowledge about the professions and income of a number of tenants pointed toward the conclusion that informal economy plays a major role in the earnings of the observed households. The goal of this paper is to point out the shortcomings of official statistical data on the income of Serbian citizens on which assessments of the standard of living are based. The outline of an “anthropology of informal earning” is given, and suggested as a way to access information on a wide variety of informal means of acquiring income which are left out of formal statistics, yet enable a significant proportion of Serbian citizens to attain a better standard of living than is suggested by official data. Another goal was to, by making a connection between informal economy and the political choices of Serbian citizens; point out the fact that the revolts occurring over the past two decades were mainly motivated by political and not economic reasons as would be expected. This is especially relevant, keeping in mind the catastrophic economic situation in the country which is often emphasized in public discourse, and taking into account the different events and parameters – starting with the hyperinflation in the first half of the 90’s, international sanctions, the increase in public spending on the part of all the regimes that had been in power, great budget deficits and national debt, up to and including the lack of much needed economic reform. Given all this, it is confounding that economic reasons do not cause the people to revolt, unless, we look to the informal economy which allows a significant number of Serbian citizens to have a more comfortable existence than public data suggests.

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Published
2016-02-27
How to Cite
Kovačević, I., & Antonijević, D. (2016). An Essay on the Anthropology of Underground Economy: The Economic Behavior of the Tenants of a Building in Dorcol. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology, 8(1), 75-93. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v8i1.4

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