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Post-socialism Meets Postcolonialism

African Migrants in the Russian Capital

Dmitri M. Bondarenko, Elena A. Googueva, Sergey N. Serov and Ekaterina V. Shakhbazyan

While Western Europe has a long history of facing and studying the issues of immigration, this phenomenon is still recent for the ex-socialist states and has not been studied sufficiently yet. At the same time, the 'closed' nature of the socialist societies and the difficulties of the 'transitional period' of the 1990s predetermine the problems in communication between the migrants and the population majority, the specific features of the forming diasporas and of their probable position in the receiving societies. The study of African migrants in Russia (particularly in Moscow) recently launched by the present authors consists of two interrelated parts: the sociocultural adaptation of migrants from Africa in Russia on the one hand, and the way they are perceived in Russia on the other. One of the key points of the study is the formation or non-formation of diasporas as network communities, as a means of both more successful adaptation and identity support.

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Polya Ilieva and Thomas M. Wilson

This article examines forms of ideological and political responses to European integration and Europeanisation that are either negative in form and function or that are projected as such for local and national purposes. The concept of 'Euroscepticism' is shown here as a useful linguistic and sociological starting point for examining the transformative power of the EU in the politics of all levels of European societies. The ways in which people express their support, opposition or ennui in regard to the role of 'Europe' in their lives delineates here the instrumentalism in the way they approach advancing European integration. The processes of resisting, negotiating and adapting (and adapting to) European integration are offered here as topics of anthropological significance in their own right. A case study from one former socialist country, Bulgaria, illustrates what may be suggested as a commonplace sentiment throughout the EU - a feeling of marginality due to the disconnection and disaffection that remain at the heart of Euroscepticism in all of its forms. Bulgaria offers a frame through which to reflect on the reformulations in local, regional and national political society as they relate to supranational and transnational forces throughout Europe, and to illustrate how an anthropological attention to the issues of post-socialism in Central and Eastern Europe may bene fit from an examination of the new forces of European integration.

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Action Speaks Louder Than Words?

Trust, Trustworthiness and Social Transformation in Slovakia

Davide Torsello

This article argues that trust cannot be easily isolated as a form of social interaction without the risk of overseeing the nuance between practices and ideas. Using a case study of a rural community in post-socialist Slovakia, the author examines how trust and trustworthiness are built and applied under conditions of profound social transformation. Following mainstream anthropological approaches to post-socialism, he shows that this transformation has deeply affected the patterns of local social interaction. Moreover, following Slovakia's recent EU accession, increased social and work mobility have further complicated the picture. If trust remains a crucial idea underpinning individual social choices, cognitive constructions of trustworthiness tend to diverge from practices. This is due, among other factors, to the difficulty of calibrating spatial and temporal mental models of trustworthiness with trust as social action.

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Mapping Time, Living Space

The Moral Cartography of Renovation in Late-Socialist Vietnam

Susan Bayly

Building on fieldwork in Hanoi, this article uses the idea of moral cartography to explore the ethical significance attached to the expertise of mapmakers, geomancers and psychic grave-finders, fields widely esteemed in Vietnam as scientific disciplines with strong moral entailments. Of central concern are the ways such practices reflect the intertwining of the temporal and the geophysical. The material expressions of these engagements include article death goods and the photographs displayed on ancestor altars; also maps as points where histories of nationhood and family interpenetrate in forms both exalting and painful for those involved. In connecting the different markers and chronologies of Vietnam's official and familial time modes with the notion of a moralized marketplace, it is suggested that the ethical concerns of today's market socialism are being negotiated in Hanoi not only in temporal terms, but through evocations of purposefully achieving life in space.

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Mapping Time, Living Space

Comment and Reply

Stephan Feuchtwang and Susan Bayly

The Bad, Fear and Blame? Comment on Bayly’s Mapping Time, Living Space Stephan Feuchtwang

Reply Susan Bayly

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Mathijs Pelkmans

This essay reviews the revolutionary situations that recently emerged in the post-Soviet world, focusing on the 'Tulip Revolution' in Kyrgyzstan. Observers were quick to explain this revolution in terms of democratic resistance to authoritarianism. This view is particularly problematic given that Kyrgyzstan was among the 'fast reformers' in the region and made its name as an 'island of democracy'. Instead of assuming that problems started when the country digressed from the ideals of liberal democracy, this essay argues that democratic reform and market-led development generated both the space and motivations for revolutionary action. Democratic reforms created the possibility of political dissent, while neo-liberal policies resulted in economic decline and social dislocations in which a temporary coalition between rural poor and dissenting political leaders was born.

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The Vanishing Power Plant

Infrastructure and Ignorance in Peri-urban Ulaanbaatar

Morten Axel Pedersen

In a neglected corner of peri-urban Ulaanbaatar’s sprawling post-socialist slums, the livelihood of dozens of households has over recent years been affected by a large infrastructure project that will never be built. ‘Power Plant #5’ was originally tendered to a Chinese construction firm in 2008 as part of a national strategy to develop Mongolia’s energy production to meet new needs. Taking its departure in the story of a poverty-stricken woman long employed as a caretaker by a mysterious organization allegedly in charge of Power Plant #5, this article explores the peculiar dynamics by which lacking knowledge about this and other infrastructural projects in contemporary Mongolia feeds into dispossessed people’s dreams about and plans for the future. Indeed, it suggests that ignorance itself may be conceived of as an infrastructure in its own right, insofar as it constitutes a ground from which certainty as well as uncertainty emerge.

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Mathijs Pelkmans

The renewed relevance of religion in post-Soviet public spheres has been accompanied by conspicuous and controversial conversion processes. This article compares cases of conversion on the Muslim-Christian frontier in Kyrgyzstan and in Georgia. It argues that the notions of boundary and frontier are essential to construct a more dynamic model for understanding 'spiritual' movement in social contexts that are rapidly changing. This approach in turn sheds light on the roles and the nature of social and cultural boundaries in the contemporary world.

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Hidden Practice in Magadan

Parishioner Anxieties and Diocesan Perspectives on Russian Orthodoxy

Alexandra S. Antohin

The realities of Magadan's Soviet past have greatly influenced how the Russian Orthodox Church characterizes the city as devoid of a strong Church legacy. This article discusses how the imprint of underground approaches to religion remains today in the form of traditions of hidden practice, religious engagement, and expression without direct church involvement. Using material from ethnographic research of a Russian Orthodox diocese, this article argues that hidden practice—initially precipitated by historical circumstances—is now being exercised by some Orthodox Christians as a choice. The article is based primarily on ethnographic interviews with members of the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Magadan

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Introduction

Sexual encounters, migration and desire in post-socialist context(s)

Judy Whitehead and Hülya Demirdirek

This introduction explores the contested issue of 'prostitution' and the transnational flow of sex labor. Drawing on the experiences of female migrants described in this issue, we rethink the impact of socialist transition and examine larger themes such as the role of discursive practices in the establishment of national boundaries and in various forms of international intervention. We problematize the 'traffic in women' as well as the conceptualization of and dichotomies surrounding sex labor. Key points in the current debates on transnational sex work are highlighted and an approach is suggested which conceives of agency and structure not in oppositional terms, but as a continuum. Considering the structural conditions imposed by neoliberal policies, we argue that ethnographic accounts can help explain how transnational openings in the market for sex work are internalized as opportunities for young women in post-socialist contexts and how economic liberalization becomes accepted as 'natural' and 'inevitable'.