In Memory of Marina – Karolina Lendák-Kabók

Published in European Journal for Women’s Studies

Marina Hughson (former Blagojević) passed away on the 6th of June, 2020, at the age of 62. She was a sociologist and feminist, Principle Research Fellow at the Institute for Criminological and Sociological Research in Belgrade, Serbia. She has been engaged in research in the field of women’s, gender, and masculinity studies since the second half of the 1980s.

Marina received her Ph.D. in 1991, and published it as her first book: Women Out of the Circle: Profession and Family (Žene izvan kruga: profesija i porodica, Belgrade: ISIFF:1991). She worked at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, and was a visiting professor in Germany, Hungary (CEU), Austria, and was a guest lecturer at many other universities. She had been a president of the Sociological Association of Serbia and a founder and president of the Section for Feminist Research and Critical Studies of Masculinity (SEFEM). As a national expert on gender equality, she participated in the creation of all important national documents in this field. As an international expert, she worked for the European Commission (co-author of the ENWISE Report), the European Parliament (study on women in the Balkans, which served as the basis for the EP Resolution), UNDP, UNIFEM, UN Women, USAID, NDI, SIDU, IFAD, as well as for governments in the region of former Yugoslavia.

Marina has worked on expert projects related to gender equality in more than fifteen countries. She was one of the leaders of the women’s movement in the 1990s and the founder of several women’s and civic organizations (Center for Women’s Studies, AŽIN, Belgrade Circle, Center for Democracy, Women’s Party, etc.), as well as the initiator of the first feminist post- Communist Conference, in Belgrade in 1994, and the first Forum of Non-Governmental Organizations in Serbia (1998). She has published more than 100 academic and 20 expert publications. In 2018 she received the Trailblazer Prize, awarded by the Association of Fulbright Scholars of Serbia for Professional Excellence. In an interview after the ceremony, when asked what a researcher’s responsibility is today, she said:
For me, this responsibility is closely related to the ethics of care, as a kind of “female principle” (which does not mean that men do not have or do not feel “care”). By doing what I do, and that is essentially a constant and persistent connection of theory, research, public policy, and activism, I try to make the society in which I live, but also the world as a whole, better, more just, more humane, happier. Unlike many, I do not see that the key problem in humanity at the moment is the lack of resources and “surplus people”, but the lack of consensus and ethics of cooperation, the lack of an alternative vision (after the neoliberal cataclysm) and humanistic
values. I do what I do solely because I feel called to produce knowledge that is useful and that provides hope.

I cannot recall when did I first met Marina, it was somewhere at the beginning of my Ph.D. studies at the Center for Gender Studies, University of Novi Sad. When I started reading her books and scholarly papers, her sophisticated and eloquent thoughts enchanted me, put my mind under a spell, for which I am immensely grateful. I as many other scholars in the Central and Eastern Europe utilized her brilliantly incisive idea of the ambivalence of the semi-peripheral space. Her analyses and ideas gave such an essence to my research and an understanding of the society in which I was born and have lived ever since. She was always supportive, answering my emails and opening a door for me in a Special Issue of the Sociology Journal: Feminism, Knowledge Production, and Social Change: Critical Perspectives from the Semipheripery of Europe.

My most vivid memory of Marina dates from two years ago, when on the 1st of July 2018 she invited me to visit her in her residence, an oasis of peace and tranquillity, which she created for herself (she was the designer of her own house) in Vrdnik, a place in the hills of Fruška gora, not far from the city of Novi Sad (Serbia), where I live. We talked about past and future. She was talking about her past experiences at the CEU, Budapest, where I was about to embark on a one-year doctoral support program at the Department of Gender Studies, and advising me about possible future research topics and career paths. She showed so much appreciation and support for me as a mother of three small children, I felt special and thankful for that.

Maybe I am not the most competent person to say goodbye from Marina, as most of the time I was just a distant admirer of her work, I did not have a chance to work with her, nor to collaborate in her projects or activist engagement. So many people would love to write this obituary for Marina and I feel such an honour that I got the chance to do so. She was a role model and a brilliant mind. She loved life and lived it with her whole heart. We will miss her terribly.

Karolina Lendák-Kabók, Ph.D
Research Associate
Faculty of Philosophy University of Novi Sad



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