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In the Shadow of the Iron Curtain

Central and Eastern European Alterglobalists

Grzegorz Piotrowski

This book examines the alterglobalist activists in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Based on lengthy ethnographic fieldwork and numerous in-depth interviews with key figures of the movement, it covers mobilizations and actions between 1998 and 2011 and analyzes the process of adapting the alterglobalist way of thinking, claims and organizational modes in post-socialist countries. By pointing out the main challenges the movement faced, the author discusses the ways it tried to overcome these. The main argument is that the post-communist legacy (expressed in low levels of mobilization, in rejection of leftist ideals and discourse and in deep mistrust towards political life) had a tremendous impact on the formation and the shape of the alterglobalist movement in the region.

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Chapter 1: Studying social movements in Central and Eastern Europe


This chapter outlines the theoretical foundations and framing of the book. I would like to present the intellectual foundations of my study of the alterglobalist movement in Central and Eastern Europe. Anthropology is not only a set of useful research tools and methods often applied by social scientists from other disciplines, it is also an attitude or and way of seeing things; and is the subject of studies it chooses. Through observing culture as the main field of interest, in my opinion, anthropology may develop a new perspective on social movements studies. On account of ongoing debates among anthropologists on the definition of the concept of culture, I will first try to present possible directions of investigation here, mostly focusing on the understanding of culture as practices. This approach is derived from several decades of studies of social movements and contentious politics.

The evolution of definitions and concepts used is derived from the changes in definitions of political activism and reflects the changes in the activism itself, in its move from the field of political struggle to politicization of everyday life. Secondly, I will glance at the changes in communication and the re-definition of the arena of the struggle that influences the studies of social movements. Thirdly, I will concentrate on specific aspects of anthropological inquiry, in particular on the role of emotions in the formation of social movements and the groups that constitute them, which is still an underdeveloped area of social movement studies. Finally,...

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