Assistant Professor, Communication Studies Program at Northwestern University
Embodying Citizenship: The changing politics of protest
This paper analyzes the logics of embodied protests as creative responses to the ways in which state power was spatialized both before and after 2000 in Serbia. I argue that the meaning and significance of protest was undercut after the October 5th democratic revolution because the meaning of urban space was reconfigured. These changes in meaning were produced by the withdrawal of state institutions under neoliberal conditions and the increased legitimacy of formal representative processes in the democratic context. During the Milošević era, rumors of rigged elections and outright fraud made elections objects of suspicion and sites of direct conflict with the state. In addition, state control over movement through urban space – including everyday practices such as shopping or finding a kiosk that would sell an alternative newspaper – created a sense of urban space as saturated by state power. As a result, mass protest became a critical site through which citizens could take power back from the state. In the post-2000 period, new spaces for democratic representation emerged with the onset of free and fair elections. In turn, the meaning of student protest shifted from a performance of “the people” to a performance for the state of different kinds of citizens vying for limited entitlements.
Jessica Greenberg focuses on the anthropology of democracy, post-revolutionary politics, youth, postsocialist studies, and political communication. Her research on student activists in post-revolutionary Serbia has led her to track and analyze the conditions of possibility for transformative politics in the post-Cold War period, and the ways in which contemporary democracies are shaped by the imaginaries and expectations of earlier political forms and practices.