Ethnography centers on the culture of everyday life. So it is ironic that most scholars who do research on the intimate experiences of ordinary people write their books in a style that those people cannot understand. In recent years, the ethnographic method has spread from its original home in cultural anthropology to fields such as sociology, marketing, media studies, law, criminology, education, cultural studies, history, geography, and political science. Yet, while more and more students and practitioners are learning how to write ethnographies, there is little or no training on how to write ethnographies well.
From Notes to Narrative picks up where methodological training leaves off. Kristen Ghodsee, an award-winning ethnographer, addresses common issues that arise in ethnographic writing. Ghodsee works through sentence-level details, such as word choice and structure. She also tackles bigger-picture elements, such as how to incorporate theory and ethnographic details, how to effectively deploy dialogue, and how to avoid distracting elements such as long block quotations and in-text citations. She includes excerpts and examples from model ethnographies. The book concludes with a bibliography of other useful writing guides and nearly one hundred examples of eminently readable ethnographic books.
In The Left Side of History Kristen Ghodsee tells the stories of partisans fighting behind the lines in Nazi-allied Bulgaria during World War II: British officer Frank Thompson, brother of the great historian E.P. Thompson, and fourteen-year-old Elena Lagadinova, the youngest female member of the armed anti-fascist resistance. But these people were not merely anti-fascist; they were pro-communist, idealists moved by their socialist principles to fight and sometimes die for a cause they believed to be right. Victory brought forty years of communist dictatorship followed by unbridled capitalism after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Today in democratic Eastern Europe there is ever-increasing despair, disenchantment with the post-communist present, and growing nostalgia for the communist past. These phenomena are difficult to understand in the West, where “communism” is a dirty word that is quickly equated with Stalin and Soviet labor camps. By starting with the stories of people like Thompson and Lagadinova, Ghodsee provides a more nuanced understanding of how communist ideals could inspire ordinary people to make extraordinary sacrifices.
Lost in Transition tells of ordinary lives upended by the collapse of communism. Through ethnographic essays and short stories based on her experiences with Eastern Europe between 1989 and 2009, Kristen Ghodsee explains why it is that so many Eastern Europeans are nostalgic for the communist past. Ghodsee uses Bulgaria, the Eastern European nation where she has spent the most time, as a lens for exploring the broader transition from communism to democracy. She locates the growing nostalgia for the communist era in the disastrous, disorienting way that the transition was handled. The privatization process was contested and chaotic. A few well-connected foreigners and a new local class of oligarchs and criminals used the uncertainty of the transition process to take formerly state-owned assets for themselves. Ordinary people inevitably felt that they had been robbed. Many people lost their jobs just as the state social-support system disappeared. Lost in Transition portrays one of the most dramatic upheavals in modern history by describing the ways that it interrupted the rhythms of everyday lives, leaving confusion, frustration, and insecurity in its wake.
In Red Hangover Kristen Ghodsee examines the legacies of twentieth-century communism twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell. Ghodsee's essays and short stories reflect on the lived experience of postsocialism and how many ordinary men and women across Eastern Europe suffered from the massive social and economic upheavals in their lives after 1989. Ghodsee shows how recent major crises—from the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Syrian Civil War to the rise of Islamic State and the influx of migrants in Europe—are linked to mistakes made after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc when fantasies about the triumph of free markets and liberal democracy blinded Western leaders to the human costs of "regime change." Just as the communist ideal has become permanently tainted by its association with the worst excesses of twentieth-century Eastern European regimes, today the democratic ideal is increasingly sullied by its links to the ravages of neoliberalism. An accessible introduction to the history of European state socialism and postcommunism, Red Hangover reveals how the events of 1989 continue to shape the world today.
This compelling ethnography of women working in Bulgaria’s popular sea and ski resorts challenges the idea that women have consistently fared worse than men in Eastern Europe’s transition from socialism to a market economy. For decades western European tourists have flocked to Bulgaria’s beautiful beaches and mountains; tourism is today one of the few successful—and expanding—sectors of the country’s economy. Even at the highest levels of management, employment in the tourism industry has long been dominated by women. Kristen Ghodsee explains why this is and how women working in the industry have successfully negotiated their way through Bulgaria’s capitalist transformation while the fortunes of most of the population have plummeted. She highlights how, prior to 1989, the communist planners sought to create full employment for all at the same time that they steered women into the service sector. The women given jobs in tourism obtained higher educations, foreign language skills, and experiences working with Westerners, all of which positioned them to take advantage of the institutional changes eventually brought about by privatization.
Interspersed throughout The Red Riviera are vivid examinations of the lives of Bulgarian women, including a waitress, a tour operator, a chef, a maid, a receptionist, and a travel agent. Through these women’s stories, Ghodsee describes their employment prior to 1989 and after. She considers the postsocialist forces that have shaped the tourist industry over the past fifteen years: the emergence of a new democratic state, the small but increasing interest of foreign investors and transnational corporations, and the proliferation of ngos. Ghodsee suggests that many of the ngos, by insisting that Bulgarian women are necessarily disenfranchised, ignore their significant professional successes.
Women from the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe—what used to be called the Second World—once dominated women’s activism at the United Nations, but their contributions have been largely forgotten or deemed insignificant in comparison with those of Western feminists. In Second World, Second Sex Kristen Ghodsee rescues some of this lost history by tracing the activism of Eastern European and African women during the 1975 United Nations International Year of Women and the subsequent Decade for Women (1976-1985). Focusing on case studies of state socialist Bulgaria and nonaligned but socialist-leaning Zambia, Ghodsee examines the feminist networks that developed between the Second and Third Worlds and shows how alliances between socialist women challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement. Drawing on interviews and archival research across three continents, Ghodsee argues that international ideological competition between capitalism and socialism profoundly shaped the world women inhabit today.