After the Revolution: Youth, Democracy, and the Politics of Disappointment in Serbia

By Jessica Greenberg | Go to book overview

4
The Ethics of Knowledge
Expertise, Branding, and (In)visibility as Forms
of Democratic Representation

ONE JANUARY AFTERNOON IN 2003 I strolled across campus to attend the weekly board meeting in the drafty offices of Student Union of Novi Sad. I wandered in and found a place to perch on a rundown couch with saggy cushions that was a hub of office activities and socializing. As it turned out, there were not enough members to make a quorum that afternoon, and the planned meeting turned into an informal chat session. A heated debate ensued about whether one of the executive board members (who was not present) was pulling her weight in the organization. It was a conversation that brought together personal animosities, gossip, and insider knowledge, and it revealed many of the ways in which organizational and intimate worlds intersected. Membership in an organization constituted a social fabric crosshatched with personal intimacies, rivalries, and friendships. Shoptalk provided social scripts in and through which young men and women navigated their world. And slippages in those performances revealed the social as well as political stakes of the kinds of solidarities and exclusions that successfully taking up these registers could produce.

At one point in the conversation, the door opened and a student who was not a member of the group walked in. He had come to the offices seeking input on a proposal for an Internet café that he wanted to submit to an American funder. The atmosphere in the room changed suddenly. The students went from an informal, if intensely heated, interpersonal debate, to being “on.” They sat up straighter, all facing toward the outsider. The buzz of multiple overlapping voices gave way to a unified, interviewlike

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