Accepted paper:

Rethinking the 'worthless dowry' of Soviet industrial modernity

Author:

Jeremy Morris (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses lived experience of blue-collar workers in a so-called ‘monotown’ in Russia since 1991, drawing on extensive fieldwork since 2009. The ‘worthless dowry’ of Soviet modernity is re-evaluated through the lives of people who make this industrial space 'habitable' for themselves.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will discuss the lived experience of blue-collar workers in a so-called 'monotown' in industry-intensive regional Russia since 1991, drawing on extensive fieldwork since 2009. In social science and especially political-economy, the narrative of the post-socialist legacy of Soviet urban planning - settlements built quickly around industrial enterprises and dependent upon them for social services and infrastructure - has been one of non-viability and decay. As if tens of millions of people can be written off as a bad experiment in urban modernity. In this paper I propose to start a rethinking of the 'useless dowry' of Soviet modernity (Trubina 2013) through the ethnographic lens of the everyday experience of people who make this industrial space 'habitable' for themselves, in work, leisure and sociality. This belies widespread belief in the meaning of deindustrialisation of such spaces. Not only does manual work emerge (or rather, endure) as an important category for identity and moral economy, social capital accounts of the failure of post-socialist urban life fail to examine the distinctive nature of class-based relationships that involve 'deep commitments, intense emotions, and everyday acts of relatedness' (Balihar 2011).

panel P097
Post-industrial revolution? Changes and continuities within urban landscapes