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Emma Brandt

Area(s) of Interest

Culture and Knowledge; Media and Technology; Global and Transnational Sociology; Political Sociology; Nations and Nationalism; Post-Socialist Studies; Ethnography and Qualitative Methods

Current Research

My dissertation, Conspiracy Theory as Critique: Media Literacy in Post-Socialist Serbia, asks how citizens obtain trustworthy information in a polluted media ecosystem—what I refer to as an “environment of disbelief.” Using the case of Serbia, whose media histories are complicated by post-conflict, post-socialist, and post-colonial legacies, I use interviews, participant observations, and discourse analysis to study how young people consume news through social media. The dissertation draws on ethnographic research in Serbia over the course of five years, including over 120 interviews and observation at media literacy trainings, debates, and festivals, to theorize the ways in which media consumption becomes an overwhelming responsibility in a media environment marked by distrust and disenchantment. I find that young people and media freedom professionals share a sense of media as inherently problematic. While both non-governmental associations and government actors envision media literacy training and education as a solution to this problem, my study of media literacy programs finds that they must navigate the challenge of appearing non-political while having explicitly political aims, which limits their efficacy. Ultimately, my work contributes to the body of scholarship on politics and public spheres, while also discussing the possibilities and pitfalls of various solutions to media environment problems. This research has been funded by organizations including the Fulbright Program, the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, and the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs. 


Brandt, E. E. S., & Fine, G. A. (2022). Tarnished Nationalism. Rehabilitating Serbia’s Reputation on the World Stage. Sociologica16(2), 103–116.

Brandt, E. E. S. (2022). Information Overload and Resistance. Emotions and Moral Frameworks in the Media Consumption of Serbian Youth. Digitalne Medijske Tehnologije I Društveno-Obrazovne Promene10, 193–206.