Accepted Paper:

Mikroraion as a Sociotechnical Assemblage or Towards a History of Second World Materiality  


Daria Bocharnikova (St. Petersburg State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss the heuristic advantages of STS tools for writing a history of Second World Materiality.

Paper long abstract:

In the last 10 years "rails, pipes and wires" became the main protagonists not only in the reports of bureaucrats' responsible for managing and maintaining diverse sociotechnical infrastructures in modern Russia (Khristenko, 2004) but also in the studies of post-socialist cities and societies (Collier, 2011; Kharkhordin and Alapuro, 2011). This paper seeks to examine this marriage of STS and post-socialism studies and to identify several productive directions for future research that allows to refashion how we think about socialist and post-socialist cities. In particular, I will demonstrate how conceiving of mikroraion -Soviet superblock of 5000-15000 inhabitants often seen as the most typical urban form of the Second World - as a complex sociotechnical assemblage allows to ask original research questions and revisit some of the basic assumptions about (post- )socialist urbanity. Overall, I will argue that this methodological shift facilitates tracing how sociotechnical systems programmed in line with ideals of socialist egalitarianism and state paternalism work under the new market imperatives of competition and efficiency and to theorize the sticky nature of Socialist materiality in today's Russia. In simple words, it helps to reveal the work of materiality in the times of transition, as well as highlight its ambiguity. In addition, the focus on the script and de-scription of sociotechnical networks allows to cross the periodization boundaries of political history and to explore the resilient lives of different Second World infrastructures before and after 1991, opening up a new way of writing the history of Second World Materiality.

Panel T108
Urban STS and Post-Socialist Cities