Red Hangover

Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 55 illustrations Published: October 2017

Author: Kristen Ghodsee

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, European Studies > Eastern Europe and Russia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

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.


"A banquet of a book, full of unexpected dishes.... Ghodsee writes with moral seriousness and exceptional force, and Red Hangover is the rare academic book that is compulsively readable and thoroughly compelling." — Patrick Iber, Los Angeles Review of Books

"I have read and loved all Ghodsee's books, each one more than the last. Red Hangover is the most complex, melding personal and professional experience with history and political theory...." — Deena Stryker, OpEd News

"Ghodsee is an amazingly subtle and nuanced ethnographer...." — Maria Todorova, Current History

"This is an extraordinary book . . . Different genres are employed to great effect, offering a multidimensional view of the postcommunist world. . . . A real contribution to the re-narration of European history after 1989." — Wim de Jong, H-Socialisms, H-Net Reviews

"Kristen Ghodsee wrote Red Hangover for the nonexpert, especially for the student born after 1989 who is trying to make sense of the present. The truly broad readership I can envision for this book, however, encompasses not only young people but rather anyone concerned about the fate of democracy." — Adrienne J. Cohen, American Ethnologist

"Red Hangover is a brave book, one that brims with urgency concerning the current state of the world and the possibilities for improving it—possibilities that are enhanced, she believes, by taking the communist experience seriously. In short, she makes the study of eastern Europe, both under socialism and after it, crucial in effort to envisage a more viable future." — Katherine Verdery, Slavic Review

"Red Hangover is an instructive introductory reading for everyone trying to understand the global postsocial-ist condition." — Dora Komnenovic, Sudosteuropa

"Surveying the present friction, the gripping essays and captivating short-fiction that comprise this infinitely accessible volume, Red Hangover opens up an important space for considering how the history, ideals, and experiences of twentieth century socialism can (and should) inform mainstream efforts at retooling the present and reimagining potential futures. . . . Red Hangover provides a clear, creative and gripping window onto the key processes and debates shaping everyday life in the post-Cold War era. The book makes for essential reading for undergraduates in anthropology, history, and European studies as well as readers beyond the classroom setting who are interested in cultivating a more critical understanding of a tumultuous present." — Bruce O’Neill, Studies of Transition States and Societies

Red Hangover provides an immensely valuable contribution to the literature on post-socialist futures and critiques of liberal democracies. . . . With its creative and engaging writing style, Red Hangover is an empowering book for those of us who feel estranged and cast aside by the looming darkness.”

— Sinan Dogan, Anthropology Book Forum

“Kristen Ghodsee courageously confronts the liberal triumphalism that refuses to learn from seventy years of state socialism, acknowledge the tragic human costs of forced privatization, or recognize the gross inequities of capitalism. Her brilliant essays and stories provide a potent allegory of our present condition: the real cost of the continued demonization of socialism is democracy.” — Jodi Dean, author of Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics

"Our 'post-factual' present is a moment of crisis, which renders it all the more crucial that scholars with deep knowledge of Eastern Europe be able to write for a wide audience. Kristen Ghodsee does this unusually well, with a good sense of pitch, appealing self-awareness, and the ability to conjure up the perfect ironic phrase. Her central argument is very provocative: Fukuyama’esque Western triumphalism has led us to the present catastrophic state of Europe—and perhaps of the United States of America as well. In my opinion the apocalyptic epilogue is fantastically cast—in part because I share the author’s creepy Weimaresque feeling. I hope she is wrong, but I fear she is right." — Marci Shore, author of The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of several books, including The Left Side of History: World War II and the Unfulfilled Promise of Communism in Eastern Europe and Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism, both also published by Duke University Press, and From Notes to Narrative: Writing Ethnographies that Everyone Can Read.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Prelude: Freundschaft  xi
Part I. Postsocialist Freedoms
1. Fires  3
2. Cucumbers  1
3. Pieces (Fiction)  24
4. Belgrade, 2015 (Fiction)  39
Part II. Re ing the Divided
5. #Mauerfall25  47
6. The Enemy of My Enemy  68
7. A Tale of Two Typewriters  84
Part III. Blackwashing History
8. Gross Domestic Orgasms  101
9. My Mother and a Clock  111
10. Venerating Nazis of Vilify Commies  129
Part IV. "Democracy Is the Worst Form of Government, Except All Those Other Forms that Have Been Tried from Time to Time"
11. Three Bulgarian Jokes  149
12. Post-Zvyarism: A Fable about Animals on a Farm (Fiction)  150
13. Interview witha Former Member of the Democractic Party of the United States (Fiction)  167
14. Democracy for the Penguins  179
Acknowledgments  201
Notes  205
Selected Bibliography  223
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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