Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Harvard University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Harvard University
Consumption as a Tool of Self-Fashioning and Sociability in Post-War Soviet Central Asia, 1945-1985

I plan to conduct research in the national libraries and archives of Tashkent, Bishkek, and Moscow from September 2013 to August 2014 in order to investigate how the consumer culture that arose in postwar Soviet Central Asia created new opportunities for self-definition, reshaped social relationships, and drove cultural change in the region. Drawing on a combination of Soviet archival sources, articles and images from the local-language Soviet press, and collections of personal documents, I will examine how Central Asians utilized the consumer goods available through the Soviet planned economy to "perform" both new and old cultural affiliations and social distinctions. Ultimately, I will argue that the expanded sphere of consumer choice that arose in Central Asia from 1945 to 1985 became one of the primary engines of cultural change in the region. However, the direction of this change was not determined by Soviet ideology or external homogenizing pressures, but instead by the ways that Central Asians incorporated the new kinds of consumer goods on offer into their own self-presentations, social contests, and cultural disputes. By engaging with cross-disciplinary theoretical literature on consumerism and globalization, my dissertation will both offer fresh insights into the interaction between local social dynamics and sweeping cultural change in the field of Soviet Central Asian history and present scholars across disciplines interested in cultural change with a case study in a profound but voluntary and piecemeal cultural transformation of a historically Islamic society.