Faculty Highlight – Jessica Greenberg

REEEC has the honor of recognizing a new member of our associate faculty, Dr. Jessica Greenberg.  She joined the Anthropology department here at Illinois in 2012 as an Assistant Professor after her four year employment at Northwestern University in the Department of Communication Studies.  She graduated with a Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago in 2007, and her dissertation was entitled Citizen Youth: Student Organizations and the Making of Democracy in Postsocialist Serbia. Her research interests include the anthropology of democracy, post-socialism, youth movements, revolution, Serbia, the Balkans, and Europe.

Dr. Greenberg’s work is motivated by a long-standing interest in the everyday political, social, and ethical life of communication, as well as the hopes and disappointments that have animated democratic political activism in the Post-Cold-War world.   Her latest project considers how models of transformative politics circulate across different social and political contexts in increasingly globalizing arenas of social change. In “Gaming the System: Semiotic Indeterminacy and Political Circulation in the New Age of Revolution,”  she addresses this new area of interest, which will appear in Language and Communication in early 2013.

As an ethnographer, Dr. Greenberg begins with the everyday categories through which people make sense of their world. At the same time, she puts these categories into conversation with long-standing social and ideological forms that impact how people understand themselves as citizens and political subjects. This has led her to an analysis of phenomena such as the widely prevalent discourses of normalcy in Serbia, or the experience of post-socialist and post-revolutionary democratic politics as fundamentally disappointing. For example, her book manuscript, “After the Revolution: Youth, Democracy and the Politics of Disappointment in Post-socialist Serbia,” speaks to the conditions of possibility and animating horizons for political transformation in the Post-Cold War era.  Her book also follows student activists in Serbia after the 2000 democratic revolution that toppled dictator Slobodan Milošević. Ultimately, this book is about practicing democracy—with all its attendant struggles and contradictions—in the shadow of an idealized moment of political transformation. It asks how, and why, people practice democracy when their expectations are constantly thwarted, and in what ways they juggle the promise of political transformation with the messiness of everyday, actually lived political action. Dr. Greenberg believes that the interplay of cultural and political expectations, normative democratic principles, and the messiness of democracy on the ground has tremendous stakes for both the scholarship and practice of democracy and post-socialism. In a moment in which democratization has become a key feature of international policy, it is especially critical to understand why new democracies are so often sites of disappointment and frustration, both among their citizens and among international policymakers.

Dr. Greenberg’s articles have appeared in American Anthropologist, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Slavic Review, East European Politics and Societies,  Nationalities Papers, and in an edited volume, Global Ages (Indiana University Press, 2007). Dr. Greenberg  is also the recipient of several awards, including a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research Fellowship, International Research and Exchanges Board Dissertation Fellowship and an American Council of Learned Societies, Dissertation Write-up Fellowship.

As to her work here at the University of Illinois, Dr. Greenberg states that she is thrilled to be part of the UIUC community, and in her own words, adds “In addition to the vibrant intellectual life on campus, I am excited and humbled by the vast expertise and knowledge about Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia on this campus. I am looking forward to being part of this community and learning from my new colleagues.”

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