Parachuting in: class and internal colonialism in Moscow's anti-Putin protests
(University of Cambridge)
Paper short abstract:
Building on Ortner's analysis of the "hidden life of class" and Etkind's of Russian internal colonialism, this paper uses ethnography of Moscow political activists' missions to provincial towns to show how this resistance project was complicit in but also sometimes challenged class and colonial inequality.
Paper long abstract:
In 2012 Moscow, activists of the movement for fair elections would go on what they called 'desant' - 'parachuting-in' or 'landing' missions to support protest in provincial towns. This paper uses ethnography of such missions to reveal how class and internal colonialism structured the movement's project of resistance. Both media and academic commentators consistently apply the label 'middle-class' to the participants and the demands of Russia's 2012 protest movement for fair elections. This label was not accepted by the movement's activists themselves. For the activists class represented a conceptual minefield akin to, though drastically historically distinct from, that described by Ortner in the US context. I follow Ortner's steps to retrace the "hidden life of class" as well as of internal colonialism (Etkind) in protestors' use of the ideas of Westernisation, 'culturedness' and 'normality' as rubrics of inequality that made sense of their democratising project through the construction and use of a provincial, working-class Other to be educated and/or confronted. Engaged in a project of resisting autocratic political structures, they were at the same time grappling with, being complicit in, or using class and colonial inequalities. The paper will show how the contested conceptual baggages of 'cultured Moscow' and 'uncultured province' left space also to create narratives and alliances that challenged these structures of inequality.
Resistance and complicity