Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, Stanford University
Economies of Despair: Gender, Psychologies and Social Assistance in Postsocialist Russia

Russians face increasing demands for self-reliance and "self-restructuring" in the face of the dismantling of socialist institutions and practices. Russian psychologists have filled the spaces the state has abandoned by addressing the demand for social assistance as people try to "restructure." Both the terms by which people make sense of their lives, and the tools available for negotiating personal transition, are moving in tandem into "private" domains. Beyond this general trend, however, there are marked differences in men's and women's experiences of privatization. My project puts gender and "self-restructuring" in dialogue with the re-emergence of psychology in Russia. My central research questions are: Why does privatization appear to have a profoundly gendered character in Russia? What can this tell us about masculinity, femininity and capitalism in Russia? What are the emergent concepts of personhood, individuality and citizenship? What bearing do these self-concepts have on the emergence of new "publics" in Russia? I plan to explore these questions in two nongovernmental organizations in St. Petersburg that stratify for gender. I will use interviews and participant observation to understand how psychologists define "problems" and "therapies," how clients find and utilize psychological services, and what role the state plays in this practitioner-patient interaction. I will broaden my sample size through interviews with private practitioners, and psychology students and professors. Finally, I will analyze several media "texts" to glimpse popular psychological discourse. The project will have broad relevance to studies of privatization, civil society, personhood and social transformation. Within anthropology my research will contribute to scholarship on govemmentality, neoliberalism and postsocialism.