Accepted Paper:

Dreaming conspiracies: experiencing the law in post-Soviet Chechnya  


Mantas Kvedaravicius (Vilnius University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the experiences of physical pain and loss in post-Soviet Chechnya that - mediated by legal engagements (e.g. extraction of confession, attendance of trials, corresponding the legal offices) - are expressed through conspiracy narratives and dreams, two often indistinguishable.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the experiences bound to physical pain, feeling of loss and the consequent suffering and grief that - mediated and produced through legal engagements (undergoing extraction of confession, memorizing fictitious crime details, attending trials, writing numerous letters, applications, and complaints, walking and negotiating the legal offices in search of the disappeared or in attempts to help the sentenced ones) - find the expression in dreams and conspiracy narratives in post-Soviet Chechnya. Based on the recent fieldwork paper argues that legal system situated within the local and federal politics and schemes of corruption, and subscribing to torture, kidnapping, fabrication of evidence, staged trials and contradictory rhetoric, also offer a framework for living through such experiences. Defined by the shared corporeal practices of reading, writing, handling, seeing, feeling, and dreaming these state operations, legal engagement helps to structure emotions and ascribe meaning to suffering. It turns law into the object of affective attachment in people's daily aspiration towards the idea of justice (spravedlivost) or hope to find the missing ones, yet it is indefinitely postponed and almost never realized within the labyrinthine bureaucracies of the state. Conspiracy narratives and dreams become the medium where such tensions, uncertainties and asymmetries come to be realized and conflated.

Panel W013
Experiencing calamity - expressing the unthinkable