This article explores the role of brokers in the market for accommodation in contemporary Moscow. Drawing on fieldwork with Kyrgyz migrant workers and the variety of intermediaries [posredniki] on whom they depend, it introduces two interventions into a growing anthropological re-engagement with brokerage. First, it highlights the importance of spatial and social proximity for understanding brokerage relations. Second, it attends ethnographically to the kinds of skills that are understood to distinguish ‘successful’ from ‘unsuccessful’ intermediaries. Drawing together recent literature on ‘everyday diplomacy’ with emic identifications of the posrednik’s work as a diplomatic craft, it examines brokerage as a skilled practice for encountering and mediating difference in contexts of political and administrative indeterminacy. The posrednik becomes an important figure in the migrant economy to the extent that economic life is suffused with uncertainty. This has implications for comparative anthropological concern with processes of social navigation in contexts of precarity.
Housing Brokers and the Mediation of Risk in Migrant Moscow
David Pedersen, American Value: Migrants, Money, and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 336, 2013.
Deportability, Indeterminacy, and the 'Feel of Law' in Migrant Moscow
While deportability has elicited interest as a legal predicament facing migrant workers, less attention has been given to the way in which this condition of temporal uncertainty shapes migrants' everyday encounters with state agents. Drawing on ethnography among Kyrgyzstani migrant workers in Moscow, I show that in conditions of documentary uncertainty 'legal residence' depends upon successfully enacting a right to the city and the personalization of the state. Alongside fear and suspicion, this space of legal uncertainty is characterized by a sense of abandon and awareness of the performativity of law. I explore 'living from the nerves' as an ethnographic reality for Kyrgyzstani migrant workers and as an analytic for developing a more variegated account of state power and its affective resonances in contemporary Russia.
Affective States—Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions
Mateusz Laszczkowski and Madeleine Reeves
The aim of this special issue is to bring a critical discussion of affect into debate with the anthropology of the state as a way of working toward a more coherent, ethnographically grounded exploration of affect in political life. We consider how the state becomes a 'social subject' in daily life, attending both to the subjective experience of state power and to the affective intensities through which the state is reproduced in the everyday. We argue that the state should be understood not as a 'fiction' to be deconstructed, but as constituted and sustained relationally through the claims, avoidances, and appeals that are made toward it and the emotional registers that these invoke. This article situates these arguments theoretically and introduces the subsequent ethnographic essays.