E-Mail: lvaltin [at] iu.edu
Privatization of retail in the former Eastern Bloc after 1989
After 1989, Western European supermarket chains expanded operations into the former Eastern Bloc. The ensuing decade of discovery and encounter between East and West was as much cultural as economic in nature, given the historically symbolic position of institutions of daily life and consumption. Expanding eastward in stages, beginning in East Germany, moving into the countries of so-called Central Europe, and then into southeastern Europe, in the 1990s German and Austrian investors in particular benefitted from both historical and geographic proximity. In addition to their own purported know-how, meanwhile, retailers relied on intermediaries such as foreign trade and privatization agencies, local and émigré businesspeople, business journalists, and the local press to overcome perceived differences between home and host markets. The resulting material environment and discursive landscape cumulatively worked to normalize the asymmetrical influence of Western cultural and economic norms in the post-communist region.
Based on oral interviews, foreign trade and privatization agency records, corporate records, and rhetoric in both mainstream and specialized business journalism, this dissertation argues that multinational supermarkets functioned as a vanguard of EU expansion and an early agent by which the fraught geographies of contemporary Europe were (re)forged. Using East Germany, Poland, and Romania as case studies to draw a regional portrait and highlighting Western chains propagating three different strategies of capitalist-style retail, this project illuminates a heretofore underexplored dimension of the transformation of Eastern Europe shops, consumers, and workers after 1989.
Während ihres Gastaufenthalts am ZZF forscht Leah Valtin-Erwin in Abteilung II "Geschichte des Wirtschaftens" / During her stay at the ZZF, Leah Valtin-Erwin researches in Department II "Economic Life".