The Politics of Privacy on State Socialist Television

Sabina Mihelj, Simon Huxtable



Existing theories of television often emphasize the inherently private nature of the medium: its propensity for personal narratives, its modes of address, and its centrality to domestic life. Yet, is this perception of television universally applicable? As this article argues, state socialist television was marked by a different relationship with the private–public boundary, rooted in the public thrust of the communist vision of modern society. Although television became a medium consumed in the comfort of one’s home, the narratives it offered were rarely centered exclusively on the private realm and often privileged communal and public values. The nature of televised representations of privacy in the socialist world also changed over time and differed across countries, with some countries markedly more open to depictions of privacy than others. This is demonstrated through a longitudinal and comparative investigation of domestic serial fiction covering the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The results suggest that theories of television need to pay more attention to the multiple forms of modern television cultures globally, anchored in competing visions of modern society.


television, state socialism, privacy, television series, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union

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