Anthropologist Jessica Greenberg sheds light on the challenges and experiences that follow revolutionary change
When student activists in Serbia helped topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic on October 5, 2000, they unexpectedly found that the post-revolutionary period brought even greater problems. How do you actually live and practice democracy in the wake of war and the shadow of a recent revolution? How do young Serbians attempt to translate the energy and excitement generated by wide scale mobilization into the slow work of building democratic institutions?
Anthropologist Jessica Greenberg took up these questions when discussing her study of student activists in the wake of Serbia’s democratic revolution as part of the CIS “World Beyond the Headlines” speaker series. Her recent book After the Revolution navigates readers through the ranks of student organizations as they transition their activism from the streets back into the halls of the university. In exploring the everyday practices of student activists—their triumphs and frustrations—Greenberg argues that disappointment is not a failure of democracy but a fundamental feature of how people live and practice it. This fascinating book develops a critical vocabulary for the social life of disappointment with the aim of helping citizens, scholars, and policymakers worldwide escape the trap of framing new democracies as doomed to failure.