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Bowdoin Books

Lost in Transition: 
Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism
by Kristen Ghodsee

Lost in Transition 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.

For more information, and to order the book directly from the publisher, please visit Duke University Press.


About the Book


Podcast: Kristen Ghodsee read "Comrades," a poignant essay from her book Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life After Communism." 

Watch: Lost in Transition book trailer

Podcast: The fall of communism in Bulgaria, PRI's The World

Listen: Author Kristen Ghodsee reads from Lost in Transition


“These charming essays have an unintended consequence. Not only are they a documentary ethnography of the lives of people caught up in the painful transition from socialism to capitalism. They are also a sort of bildungsroman of a young American discovering another world and shedding stereotypes.” —Maria Todorova, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign “The collapse of the Soviet empire entailed not only the blitzkrieg dissolution of the socialist economies and one-party states of Eastern Europe but also immediate accidental and incidental changes in the everyday lives of its residents. With an ear for the ironic, the sensual, the playful, and the tragic, Kristen Ghodsee tells personal stories from this period of dissolution, which began several decades before the Berlin Wall came down. Drawing from her encounters during many years of research in Bulgaria, she portrays the changing nature of experience in that place during that time. Though understood as impoverished at the time, this socialist experiment reveals, in retrospect, lives filled with adventure, surprising friendships, and an openness to forms of engagement and being that makes the fullness of the free market and democracy in the post–Cold War order of today seem, by comparison, pale and predictable.” —John Borneman, Princeton University » Kristen Ghodsee's Faculty Page 

Academic Minute (Northeast Public Radio). Dr. Ghodsee explains why after only two decades, many former Eastern Bloc countries are developing a growing nostalgia for communism.
"Tito Trivia," one of the short stories included in Lost in Transition, has won the 2011 Ethnographic Fiction Prize from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association.
Book Details
Paperback: 978-0-8223-5102-3
Cloth: 978-0-8223-5089-7
Book Excerpt
Introduction to Lost in Transition (PDF) Copyright Duke University Press, 2011
Purchase the Book
» Duke University Press