Ethnography of Voting: Nostalgia, Subjectivity, and Popular Politics in Post-Socialist Lithuania

Neringa Klumbyte

PhD Thesis 2006

Politics in Eastern Europe has become increasingly defined by apparent paradoxes, such as majority voting for the ex-communist parties in the early 1990s and strong support for populists and the radical right later in the 1990s and 2000s. The tendency in political science studies is to speak about the losers of transition, and to explain success of the ex-communist, radical and populist parties and politicians in terms of the politics of resentment or protest voting. However, what subjectivities have been produced during post-socialism and why/how they are articulated in particular dialogues among politicians and people, are questions that have not been discussed in most studies.

In this dissertation I explore political subjectivities to explain voting behavior in the period of 2003-2004 in Lithuania. I analyze nostalgia for socialism and individuals relations to social and political history, community, nation, and the state. I argue that voting is an enactment of a social text or a performance of social history, in which a subject embodies his/her experience and knowledge. Voting is a meaningful action not just a protest. Electoral politics is a semantic and symbolic competition.

My analysis is informed by phenomenology, semiotics, interpretative anthropology, post-structuralist theory as well as post-socialist and post-colonial studies. The research was conducted in 2003-2004 in three village communities and the cities of Vilnius and Kaunas, Lithuania.