Antropologicheskij forum. 2015. No. 25. Summaries and keywords


Local Past on the Margins of the National: Local Museums of the Northern Ladoga Region in the Post-Soviet Period

By Ekaterina Melnikova

This paper deals with the issue of how the small provincial museums of contemporary Russia represent local past. I argue that the widespread idea of state sponsored museums as vehicles of national ideologies does not comply with the modern situation. Museums enter the markets of tourism and heritage while remaining the parts of the state museum system. In the context of territorial branding, and competition with other regions for visitors and investments, local museums break from the model of representing the “national” and search for local specifics, while ignoring national frameworks. I use the example of the Northern Ladoga region, which has a long and complicated history due to its North European border. During the last changes of the borders after World War II, Finland ceded the territory to the Soviet Union. Using the materials of exhibitions, observations, and interviews with museum guides, I focus on the modern shifts in representing local past in small museums of the region. Today, history has become the most claimed resource of local imagination in the framework of the museum display, but the past which is associated with local culture is usually interpreted as the heritage of the territory rather than of its inhabitants. Viewed from this angle, the displayed past renders the romantic ideas of a “golden age,” when the territory was part of another country. Mostly unknown to local people, this past is seen as an exotic image which provides the region with a trendy brand, but it is not related to any personal or familial histories of local people.

Keywords: local museums, kraevedenie, memory studies, local heritage, history, anthropology of memory.


Pristina as a Divided City

By Denis Ermolin

This paper negotiates the transformations in urban space of Pristina (Kosovo / Serbia) from 1951–1985 and their ensuing aftermath. The main analysis focuses on changes in the cultural landscape and their role in creating and maintaining ideological discourses during different periods of the 20th and 21st centuries. As a hypothesis, I propose the idea that the large-scaled reorganisation of the urban public space that took place from 1951–1985 resulted in cultural division of the city (the opposition between the western and the developed southern and central districts versus the oriental and, later on, ruralised northern area of the city). Public and private spaces in the southern and central districts of Pristina were fully included in the process of Socialist urbanization. It was there that the main Yugoslav slogan “Brotherhood and Unity” was successively realized by means of architecture and urban planning. The newly built theatre, library, university, stadium, gym, schools, hospitals, department stores, etc. could be regarded as instruments of social control that functioned to synchronise public activity. At the same time, such large-scale urban projects were never realized in the northern part of the city, which remained in many ways oriental. Moreover, I claim that Pristina’s divided nature has added to the ethnic tensions between Serbs and Albanians, which led to the mass protest actions and war in Kosovo, since the northern districts were initially used as a reliable platform for parallel structures of education and healthcare after 1990.

Keywords: Pristina, Kosovo, Serbia, Yugoslavia, divided city, narrative space, cultural landscape, multi-ethnicity, ethnic tension, ethnic nationalism.


Chewing Gum, Leningrad Teenagers, and Commodity Fetishism in the Period of Developed Socialism

By Konstantin A. Bogdanov

This article intends to clarify two interrelated issues. The first is recalling the meanings that chewing gum had in childhood and adolescence in everyday Soviet life. The second is the question of the function “extraordinary” values of certain objects and artifacts in various subcultures. The author assumes that this case can be described (in terms of cultural anthropology and social psychology) as the phenomenon of commodity fetishism in the context of more fundamental mechanisms that determine the practice of collective interaction in terms of relative deprivation and self-isolation. Thus, with regard to the teenage (mainly male) environment, chewing gum is worthwhile both as an important example of fetishisation, and to study the socialisation of Soviet teenagers from the 1960s–1980s. Information about chewing gum highlights its strangeness and even hostility to the Soviet man in his social behaviour. In the case of adolescents, chewing gum was the manifestation of emotional solidarity, speaking as an alternative to the propaganda and expectations of Soviet ideology. From an ethnographic and anthropological point of view, this alternative is interesting because of its apparent irrationality. Yet it is convincing as an argument for which evidence was determined not by words, but by the very fact of its “material” and symbolic presence: the price of gum was converted to the collective values of symbolic exchange. The role of the imagination in these cases was immeasurably greater than the physiology of taste or category of use.

Keywords: chewing gum, teenagers’ subculture, commodity fetishism.


Practises of Everyday Intergenerational Interaction through the Eyes of the Students of a Provincial University: An Ethnographic Essay

By Anton Smol’kin

Problem: This paper focuses on causes of intergenerational conflicts in everyday life through the eyes of the students of a provincial university. Based on the results of involved observation and interviews (conducted in 2007–2010, N = 50), the author points out that some intergenerational contacts may be marked as potentially conflictual from the very beginning. It is common for young people to dislike being a traditional object of upbringing for elderly people, and to believe that many elderly people are prejudiced against youth. Negative expectations of youth and the elderly allow both of them to regard any ambiguous actions of the other side as potentially conflictual. This escalates the situation, and reduces practical opportunities to find a line of behaviour that could be considered neutral. The conflict can arise from the elderly’s side as a result of their common frustration or it can be a way of communicating, to get over their loneliness. Conflict can be also a way to diffuse tension or to translate their generational identity (the latter may explain one of the communication practises in public transport such as “unaddressed complains”). An important cause of conflict is specific verbal / communicative behaviour by the elderly, e.g. an aggressive anomic (post)soviet communication style (behaving as an “aggressive victim”), which makes it difficult to demonstrate many forms of solidarity. As a result, young people react in advance in such a way, that they re-form their attitude in order to minimise any contacts, but without violating the practise directly. Conclusions: The conflictual behaviour of the elderly can bring them some immediate pragmatic benefits, but fails strategically, because it destroys the potential for gaining the respect of others. The respectful actions stop being mechanical and grow to be associated with the situational contexts and with the object of hypothetical respect.

Keywords: intergenerational interaction, intergenerational conflict, attitudes toward aging, the elderly, youth.


The Emotional Aspect of “Unclean” Child Murder (Episode in the Life of the 18th Century Hetmanate)

By Igor Serdiuk

In this article, I try to identify the emotional component of one case of infanticide and consider how individual experience, collective emotions, and the emotional state of society in 18th century Hetmanate influenced the actions of the defendants of this case. I chose the case of Roman Krasnoschochenko the shepherd, from a number of documents in the archives of Ukraine. He was accused of homicide by the misadventure of his nephew, who was diseased by an “evil spirit”. This case illustrates how, in the society of that time, some protective mechanisms were engaged, and manifested themselves in the fear of infection and disgust for the “evil spirit.” They, in turn, encouraged the individual to “expulse” children who did not fit in their “normal,” and “clean” living space. The population of the Hetmanate in the 18th century was no stranger to “expulsing”, because there had been quite a large range of targets of expulsing, including marginalised groups, people in “bad” trades, and patients with “unclean” diseases.

This detailed analysis of the Krasnoschochenka case once again prompts an appeal to the thesis that there was a lower value of life in early modern times. Ukrainian society has been deeply traditional, and it was not aware of Occupational Medicine. Moreover, in conditions of total child mortality, Ukrainian society was not inclined toward a sentimental perception of infant death. Especially since it rid the adults of many potential problems, including those associated with exposure to sick or crippled children. Killers of children were protected by, and even excused by, the court.

Keywords: disease, Hetmanate, emotion, disgust, child, fear, infanticide.



Review of Svetlana Gorshenina, Asie centrale. L’invention des frontieres et l’heritage russo-sovietique. Paris: CNRS, 2012, 382 pp.; Svetlana Gorshenina, L’invention de l’Asie centrale. Histoire du concept de la Tartarie a l’Eurasie. Paris: Librairie Droz, 2014, 702 pp.

By Sergey Abashin

This review discusses two books by Svetlana Gorshenina, who investigates the construction of the notion of “Central Asia.” Gorshenina critiques the essentialist paradigm of primordial cultures, ethnic groups and regions, which could be studied and objectively measured. The review stresses the author’s intention to analyse the development of “Central Asia” in the mythological and academic imaginary. Gorshenina investigates how the name and the borders of the region have changed over time. She questions how different images and representations of Central Asia have been developed as part of various political projects in order to perpetuate systems of power and political control. This review points out how Gorshenina’s first book, published in 2012, addresses the history of how the concept of “Central Asia” was invented, as well as the delimitation of its borders in the 18th–21st centuries, i.e. the period under the rule of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Her subsequent book, published in 2014, goes beyond political issues to investigate the intellectual framework within which the concept of “Central Asia” was constructed, and different ways it has been mapped and named. In comparison with her work from 2012, Gorshenina significantly expands the chronological framework of her analysis and interpretation, spanning two thousand years of history.

Keywords: imagined community, Central Asia, Turkestan, orientalism, geographical knowledge.


Review of John McCannon, A History of the Arctic: Nature, Exploration and Exploitation. London: Reaktion Books, 2012, 349 pp.

By Anastasia Karaseva

This review analyses John McCannon’s A History of the Arctic in the context of other publications on the history of the region, and describes the challenges of this genre. These include the identification of regional boundaries; the absence of shared history in areas now considered to be integral parts of the Arctic, but which had previously not been politically or economically connected; the need for extensive expertise in multiple fields of knowledge, in order for authors to avoid mistakes and misinterpretations. Evidence of the need for such information is also provided, and the sources of this demand are explained.

Keywords: Arctic, history. raphical knowledge.


Review of N. Ssorin-Chaykov (comp.), Topografi ya schastya: Etnografi cheskie karty moderna [The Topography of Happiness: Ethnographic Map of the Modern]. Moscow: NLO, 2013, 408 pp.

By Evgeny Dobrenko

This review of the The Topography of Happiness: Ethnographic Maps of the Modern evaluates the quality of the contributions that represent anthropological or sociological analysis of various “positive topics,” mainly in the post-Soviet context with several comparative cases. The book is criticized for its inconsistent theoretical treatment of the subject, which is only conceptualised in the editorial introduction, while other contributors mainly just mention happiness briefly to make a connection with their particular research topics. The review points out the differences between how the various texts tackle the topic, concluding that happiness is much more difficult to understand in the field of practise as opposed to the field of culture, where it is already medialised as a cultural product.

Keywords: happiness, ethnographic map of the Modern, “the industry of happyness”, “American dream”.


Review of Julie Buckler, Emily D. Johnson (eds.), Rites of Place: Public Commemoration in Russia and Eastern Europe. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2013, 348 pp.

By Victoria Donovan

Rites of Place: Public Commemoration in Russia and Eastern Europe is a pioneering overview of contemporary memory studies with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe. This review admires the originality, historical and geographical scope of the contributions to the volume, but questions the tacit acceptance of Pierre Nora’s “lieux de mеmoire” thesis as the foundation stone for contemporary memory studies.

Keywords: Soviet Russia, post-Soviet Russia, memory studies, “lieux de memoire”, nation building.


Review of Helene Mialet, Hawking Incorporated: Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012, 266 pp.

By Ilia Utekhin

Helene Mialet’s work presents the results of an ethnographic study of the famous scientist Stephen Hawking who is considered to be a complex assemblage of people, technical devices, and the biological body of a disabled person. The anthropological inquiry into the knowing subject is made possible as part of the approach advanced by the representatives of Science and Technology Studies who engage actor-network theory. Mialet considers practises of communication, as well as the work of the networks that provide for scientific creativity and presentation of Hawking in the media. Similar structures might be observed elsewhere, but it is Hawking’s disability that reveals the structure of the socio-technical system within which Hawking’s thoughts, utterances, and identities are distributed. His disability brings about the specific configuration of the system that enables Hawking to exist, and works as an interface between him and the world. It is the place of Hawking’s biological body that is special in this case.

Keywords: science and technology studies, cognition, disability.


Monitoring the Scholarly Life of the Anthropological Community (2015)

Replies by Mikhail Alekseevsky, Sergey Arutyunov, Alexandra Arkhipova, Tatyana Volodina, Rebecca Gould, Dmitry Doronin, Leokadia Drobizheva, Alexandra Kasatkina, Valeria Kolosova, Igor Kuznetsov, Darya Mishchenko, Sergey Nekludov, Alexander Novik, Maria Pirogovskaya, Mikhail Stroganov, Valery Tishkov, Andrey Toporkov, Elena Trubina, Valentina Kharitonova, Mark Edele

The Forum for Anthropology and Culture presents the results of an annual survey designed to monitor the academic life of the anthropological community. The survey‘s goal is to recap current academic events, and to rate the most notable monographs, papers, reviews, etc. This year, the survey coincides with the 11th Congress of Ethnographers and Anthropologists of Russia. The editorial board asked researchers to indicate the most significant academic events over the past five years, and elaborate on their choice. Their complete replies are presented here.

Keywords: monitoring, academic events, contemporary Russian anthropology.