Accepted Paper:

A Cure for the "Ideology Syndrome": or, how the study of socialist urbanity can benefit from assemblage thinking  

Author:

Diana Kurkovsky West (European University at St. Petersburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper contends that the study of the Soviet built environment, - examined here through the lens of Soviet housing construction, - benefits from the optics offered to us by the field of science and technology studies (STS) and the approach to the study of cities informed by assemblage thinking.

Paper long abstract:

The notion of ideology is both a prominent and a problematic feature of scholarship on Soviet and post-Soviet urbanity. On the one hand, socialist symbols, planning agendas, and discourse, dominate the archival traces and inscriptions, as well as the material legacy of Soviet approach to urban planning, forcing researchers to contend with State-imposed agendas, rhetoric, and symbolism - elements which roughly make up what we describe as "ideology" as it becomes translated into the physical environment of the city. On the other hand, the idea of having a universal, centrally-implemented, dominant that defines the form and content for all aspects of life, sits uneasily with the postmodern and poststructuralist critiques, whose diverse intellectual agendas have offered powerful ammunition against universalizing notions and universal ideals.

This paper contends that the study of the Soviet built environment, - examined here through the lens of Soviet housing construction, - benefits from the optics offered to us by the field of science and technology studies (STS) and the approach to the study of cities informed by assemblage thinking. Undergirding a pragmatist position with regards to the study of the urban, this approach eschews generalizations and universalizing assumptions with regard to the urban condition in favor of heterogeneity and simultaneous singularity of each sociotechnical nexus. Additionally, my paper proposes that assemblage thinking itself is augmented through the study of the post-Socialist urbanity, as researches must learn to balance the perspective of heterogeneity and local specificity against the material DNA, and the recurring elements and codes, of Soviet building practices.

Panel T108
Urban STS and Post-Socialist Cities