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Accepted Contribution:

Soviet photography as infrastructural mediation  
Sasha Shestakova

Short abstract:

This paper will discuss photography as a form of "infrastructural mediation" to understand its role in the Soviet and Russian settler colonial projects. It will do so by using "Ogonek" magazine and the way, how infrastructural geoengineering was represented in it as a case study.

Long abstract:

In my paper, I will discuss the role that Soviet photography played in contesting Indigenous land sovereignties during the Cold War. To do that, I will use the notion of “infrastructural mediation”, developed by Rafico Ruiz in the context of the Canadian settler colonial project. He defines it as “a means to examine how colonial lifeworlds, subjectivities, and affects come into being through the design, building, maintenance, and repair of infrastructures that respond to resource frontier–making projects as settler media-making projects as well” ((Ruiz, 2021, 17). I expand on the theoretical framework of critical infrastructure studies to see photography's role in establishing control of land and people. I argue that the photographs participated in the "worldmaking" (Carse, 2016) of the Soviet settler colonial project.

I do so by looking at the example of the “Ogonek” (small fire) magazine. One of its functions during the Cold War was to “bring infrastructures close to the people”(Werneke, 2021). In my presentation, I argue that the portrayal of the Soviet infrastructures of extraction of resources rendered land as “terra nulus”, thus participating in the destruction of Indigenous sovereignty. The consequences of the Soviet “resorcification” (Bazdyrieva, 2022) of land continue in the Russian colonial project. They manifest themselves both in the continued resource extraction and the contemporary Russian legislation, which erases Indigenous relations to land, making sovereignty outside of the colonial relations of property impossible.

Combined Format Open Panel P040
Zeitenwende et al. - Infrastructures as media of transformation
  Session 1