Surviving the 3rd Year of the PhD: Or, How to Become a ‘Structure of Feeling’ Part 2

This is Part 2 of the post about my experience of writing PhD at the University of Manchester. You can read Part 1 here.

In the mid of January 2020, when I was coming back from Moscow to Manchester, some people in Europe already knew about the coronavirus from the news. However, most of them neither worried about it nor took it seriously. As for me, I was in reading research literature for my next empirical chapter.

Spring Semester: Stay Safe, Take Care and Write Thesis

Got back from winter break, I started writing chapter 5 on living life in two industrial neighbourhoods, where I undertook ethnography. In the chapter, I tried to explain the peculiarities of the spatial imaginary of Russian workers and other neighbourhoods’ residents with the help of Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of ‘a sense of place’ and Raymond Williams’ concept of ‘structure of feeling’. It took me three weeks to draft that chapter. Later, I spent three weeks more to improve it for the annual review 2020.

In February, most people from my network still did not worry about COVID-19, apart from my friend, a PhD student from China, who told me the news about the coronavirus, when I came back to the office. In the mid of February, I received feedback from my supervisory team. And then a new UCU strike began at 74 Universities across the UK. The strike lasted until March. Needless to say that striking was a very emotional (and emotionally tiring) experience. I presented my PhD research at the Sociology teach-outs. At the same time, I was mainly focused on writing the thesis. However, even a brief experience of taking part in collective actions was intellectually insightful for me and helped me to formulate my critical arguments.

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Sociology teach-outs during the UCU strike, the University of Manchester Students’ Union, February 2020 © Photo by the author

In chapter 4 on my research approach and methodology, I criticized those scholars who studied a working-class movement in Russia in the 1990s and argued that Russian workers were ‘patient’ (for example, see: Ashwin, 1999), capable only for survival and not for proactive actions. After the UCU strikes, it became clear for me that those scholars looked at Russian workers from the ‘Western’ perspective of strong trade unions with a long-standing history. While in Russia, independent trade unions began to emerge at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. However, in Russia workers were involved in everyday struggle of different forms ranging from everyday resistance to open protests (and it also happened in the Soviet era (for example, see: Piskunov, 2017)). Probably, I will move this critique to chapter 3 about the Russian context which was written as a literature review for the annual review 2018. I spent three weeks for drafting chapter 4 and sent it to my supervisors in the mid of March. In a week, a lockdown happened in the UK.

Life under Lockdown: Stay at Home, Save Lives

It is really hard to describe my experience of living life under lockdown. Talking to friends and colleagues from the academic community via Zoom, Skype, Facebook and other messengers, I realized that University people employed three strategies of coping with lockdowns in different parts of the globe. Some academics said that they ‘just ignore it’ meaning that they did not worry about the news and death toll and continued working as usual. Some others tried dealing with their worries work-wise. The rest (and it was my case) could not be focused on work at all.

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My window view, March 2020 © Photo by the author

In the first weeks of lockdown, I was very stressed and could not write the next chapter supposed to be about the theoretical framework. I tried making myself to read books on theory, which I found at home. Fortunately, I borrowed some of them from the University library before its closure due to COVID-19. However, it was hard to be focused even on reading. I worried about my family and beloved ones in Russia. Also, all flights between countries were stopped. And there were some delays in delivering food at the beginning of the UK lockdown if you buy it online. These altogether added more stress. I had a feeling that I had to survive, even though it was not true. I am aware that there are a lot of people who suffered much more than me. In my case, it was more about emotional survival.

I felt that my emotional resource was close to run out and I sought professional assistance from the therapist who helped me to cope with anxiety. I was in contact with my relatives and friends, and my supervisory team was very supportive at that time. In the mid of April, I came back to writing and managed to draft theoretical chapter 2, which of course still needs to be improved. While I stayed at home, I tried to pay attention to my body, soul and health. It may sound very Foucauldian. Anyway, I established a daily routine: waking up at 6.30 am and going to bed at 10 pm, doing yoga, cooking healthy food and going out to the courtyard to breath fresh air. I aired out the rooms regularly and kept them clean. Having one walk a day near the house building I got to know my neighbours better.

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A neighbour’s cat in their one walk a day, April 2020 © Photo by the author

At the same time, staying at home was a cultural experience for me. Here, I do not romanticize lockdown at all. In March, I subscribed to webpages of the museums, art galleries, theatres, and philharmonics opened online access to their cultural resources. Their wonderful streams helped me to cope with anxiety. I am very thankful to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Belvedere Museum Vienna, and many others for broadcasting their cultural events.

During lockdown, I finished reading The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, the final book of the Neapolitan quartet, a series of novels telling the story of a friendship between two women who grew up in a working-class neighbourhood on the edge of Naples and had absolutely different life trajectories. The Neapolitan quartet gets the reader involved in a complicated relationship between two women and their relationships with other people of different backgrounds from their neighbourhood and other parts of Italy. It has your attention from the beginning to the end. I thought that I might borrow some literary forms from Ferrante’s novel and use them in my thesis. But then I realized that I need my ethnographic style.

Returning to the question about a ‘structure of feeling’

In the 3rd year, I was too focused on my doctoral research. To take my mind off it, I bought water-mixable oil paints and started painting whatever I saw around in Manchester and its surroundings. I never painted before and viewed this activity only as a hobby. Staying at home for a long time I painted my window view representing structures of feeling of Northern England. That’s how I tried to reflect in visual arts what structure of feeling was. One of my friends said that structure of feeling was ‘that historical atmosphere of being that can’t fully be explored retroactively’. In this piece of text, I tried to grasp that historical atmosphere, in which I have been writing my PhD.

Surviving the 3rd Year of the PhD: Or, How to Become a ‘Structure of Feeling’ Part 1

After two months of the coronavirus lockdown, Britain is slowly coming back to ‘normal’ life. In Manchester, cafés and non-essential shops reopen their doors to customers. People go out and gather together though social distancing, taking sanitary measures, and wearing facemasks. Meanwhile, I submitted my documents for the annual review 2020. It is time to look back over the 3rd year of my PhD at the University of Manchester, full of intellectual insights but also of diverse feelings and experiences against the background of big events, which will go into history.

Autumn Semester: Eat, Pray, Love Write, Teach, Strike

The autumn semester started well and did not show any sign of trouble.

On the 1st of September 2019, I was ready to begin writing the first, actually the final, empirical chapter of my thesis. I know it might sound strange but my supervisory team advised me to begin with that final chapter 7 looking at different forms of everyday struggle of workers and subordinate classes in Russia. I established a writing routine and spent two months for drafting the text. I was mainly struggling with how to formulate the arguments out of ethnographic data. For me, it turned out to be easy to write but hard to put rich ethnography in one chapter still waiting for a good summary.

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Writing the first page of my thesis, September 2019 © Photo by the author

After that, I decided to follow a logical sequence in telling the story and spent the following two months for drafting the next, actually the previous, empirical chapter dedicated to everyday inequalities, which workers experienced daily in Russian industrial neighbourhoods. Chapter 6 on everyday inequalities and social imaginary was more consistent. I tried to inscribe theoretical concepts into the empirical analysis. However, building bridges between Russian data and ‘Western’ theories was not an easy task for me. Alongside this, I assisted my supervisor in her course on the everyday understanding of inequalities which broadened my knowledge in inequality studies.

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The University Place, October 2019 © Photo by the author

The final lectures of the course were planned to be on how people protest inequalities and make sense of them. Due to the UCU* eight-day strike supported by 60 Universities across the UK, those lectures were cancelled. Instead, together with the University staff and students, we were protesting against unfair pensions in academia, gender and race pay gap, short-term contracts, underpayment and workload of early career researchers and graduate teaching assistants. In parallel to the strike, I was finishing chapter 6, while some of my peers were canvassing for the Labour Party before the General Elections.

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The UCU strike at the University of Manchester, November 2019 © Photo by the author

I remember the day before the elections we were drinking in a pub with PhD students and somebody said that tomorrow we would wake up in socialism. The semester finished with the loss of Jeremy Corbin. Boris Johnson became the Prime Minister. For Britain, leaving the EU became an inevitable future. Many people in academia felt disappointed and thought that Brexit was the worst thing could happen. At that time, no one had ever heard about COVID-19.

Winter Break: Be Happy and Read Novels

Packing my suitcase with Christmas presents, I managed to squeeze a novel, which I borrowed from the university library and went to Russia. I was happy to spend a winter break in Moscow with my family, meet up with friends and colleagues, and visit a couple of art exhibitions.

During the Christmas holidays, I had more time for reading for pleasure. That’s how I turned to Border Country, the novel I brought with me in the suitcase. The novel opens with the return of Matthew Price, a university lecturer in London, to the Welsh village of Glynmawr, when his father, a signalman at the railway station, has a stroke. The book impressed me deeply by the imaginative depiction of the country, its landscapes and sceneries combining rural and industrial elements in the local infrastructure. After finishing it, I began to understand better what ‘structure of feeling’ meant.

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The book from the University of Manchester Library © Photo by the author

Amazingly, the book from the library, the third impression of the novel published in 1978, contained the signature on its title page. I am still thinking whether it could be that I was holding in my hands the copy of the book signed by its author, Raymond Williams.

In the mid of January, when I was leaving Moscow for Manchester, some people in Europe already knew about the coronavirus from the news. However, most of them neither worried about it nor took it seriously. As for me, I was in reading research literature for my next empirical chapter.

To be continued…

*UCU is an abbreviation for the University and College Union, the official trade union supporting University workers across the UK.

Todmorden. A town with a scary name and social hierarchy

Every year after passing our annual reviews, my University friends and I go on a trip to a town with a scary name of Todmorden. Todmorden is located in Northern England on the boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire. If you split this name into two words, you will get ‘tod’ evoking associations with a German word ‘Tod’ meaning ‘death’ and ‘mor’ resembling a French word ‘mort’, which also means ‘death’. In other words, or playing with words you may easily get something like ‘deadly death’ or ‘death-death-something’. These associations make an aura of the place:D

Todmorden is full of legends about the origin of its name. One of the stories goes back to the 15th century and tells of the Wars of the Roses. Without going into detail, I just say that bloody conflicts occurred between two rival groups of the English elite belonging to the dynasty of Plantagenet, the branch of Lancaster, having a red rose as its symbol, and the branch of York with a symbol of a white rose.

IMG_1108.JPGThe Monument of the Roses, June 2018 © Photo by A. Vanke

Centuries passed, and today local cricket clubs use red and white roses as their emblems rivaling on the cricket pitch only. Now only the monument under the railway arc resembles the Wars of the Roses. However, there are no inscriptions on stone. It is quite hard to understand, whether stone roses refer to the past wars or the present sports competitions. I am guessing to both of them;)

The town and surroundings of Todmorden are also noteworthy by its industrial past and its farming present. In the 19th and 20th centuries, this area was considered to be working-class because its residents mainly were employed in heavy industry and cotton mills located in the same place. However, after the 1970s most of the industry was dismissed that changed the local economy and life of the working-class community.

Now Todmorden is gentrified and has a mixed social composition. People belonging to different social classes live there. What is remarkable that this social hierarchy is visible in the landscape of the town and its surroundings. With friends, we enjoy walking in the countryside and hiking in the hills around Todmorden. Whenever we go up to the hills, I have a feeling that we move from the bottom to the top of the social hierarchy. If you have not stopped reading yet, I invite you to climb the hills together and see what can be found on the way.

At the bottom

In the valley, one can see a six-storey building of the Robinwood mill. This cotton mill was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century. Its owners also built around some housing blocks for workers and more beautiful villas for managers. The mill building looks brutal and stable. It was made of stone bricks and reconstructed several times. The front of the building has some traces of a fire. Locals say that somebody set fire to the mill to make money, and now some parts of the building are for sale.

IMG_2081.JPGThe Robinwood mill, July 2019 © Photo by A. Vanke

And what’s about housing? In the valley, one can find old well-built houses where mainly pensioners live and some social housing blocks for workers. Houses for pensioners (some of them belong to a local working-class community) are of low height with solid walls of stone brick, nice chimneys, double-glazed windows, through which one can see pot plants and house cats. There are small gardens with rosebushes in front of these houses. Sometimes the residents hang laundry outside.

IMG_1121.JPGHousing in the valley, June 2018 © Photo by A. Vanke

Relatively ‘new’ social housing resembles by its architecture typical council estates in England. It is two-storey housing blocks with flat and gable roofs, simple facades, and windows of different sizes. If you have a look at a window, you may see lace curtains and fresh flowers in vintage vases. Some residents put English cross flags on their windows with expressing their national identity and white-and-blue flags, which meaning I could hardly ever get. Life of people living in the valley seems to be hard.

IMG_2073Social housing at the bottom of the hill, July 2019 © Photo by A. Vanke

In the middle

Having looked around in the valley, we are going up to the hill. Several routes are leading to the top. Every time we explore a new route that allows us to know the local area better. The middle of the hill has picturesque views of the town with the cotton mill and small houses scattered in the valley. There are more trees and shadows here. At some point, you may realize that you are in the middle of nowhere. But soon you understand that the local middle class occupies this place on the hill.

IMG_2092.JPGHouses in the middle of the hill, July 2019 © Photo by A. Vanke

This awareness comes, when you see another type of housing and small shiny cars of bright colours, red, yellow, white driving up and down the hill. I would say that houses in the middle are more diverse in design and style, but all of them have something in common. For example, middle-class houses are normally bigger than those we saw at the bottom. They may have more spacious yards and nicer gardens. If you come across local farms you will see that farmers usually have a piece of land near their houses.

IMG_2108A smiling horse, July 2019 © Photo by A. Vanke

This land needs to be cultivated by tractors. And we met one friendly tractor driver cultivating lands of different farmers. According to locals, the life of farmers is far from easy today. They produce meat, milk, cheese, eggs, and other foodstuffs, and sell them in the town market. While we were wandering around the farms, we met nice animals:) smiling horses, sleepy cows, lazy sheep, curious ostriches, beautiful deer, cute ponies, and funny buffalos. From the middle of the hill, life seems to be pastoral but still hardworking.

IMG_6538.JPGA picturesque pastoral view, July 2019 © Photo by A. Vanke

On the top

We keep on moving to the top. And what we find there? From the top of the hill, you will see picturesque panoramic views of the countryside with its beautiful fields, farms, other hills, and windmills. If you look more carefully you can notice villas hidden in the foliage of old trees. The villas are often surrounded by fences and sometimes by the barbed wire. Yes, exactly like this *Х*Х*Х*  That’s why it is quite problematic to understand what is happening there because villas are hidden from the public eye in contrast to the houses in the middle and at the bottom of the hill. However, you will feel the atmosphere at the top of the local social hierarchy.

IMG_2138.JPGThe bonsai garden, July 2019 © Photo by A. Vanke

Villas on the top looks spacious and beautiful. Some of them resemble small castles surrounded by the piece of land which is not cultivated but used for the golf course or gardens. Some villas’ owners have greenhouses in their territories and decorate their yards with elegance and style. While we were going down, in one villa, I noticed a straw hat accurately laying on the garden armchair. In another one, a bonsai garden with accurately cut evergreens drew my attention. The people from the top of the hill drive Range Rover cars and keep dogs barking at passers-by.

IMG_2136.JPGRoofs of the houses, July 2019 © Photo by A. Vanke

I was thinking that life on the top might be aisé. However, barking dogs, fences and barbed wires were telling us that life was not easy there too.

Going down to earth

Our way back was much easier than to the top. When you are coming back you can see all types of houses in the distance. At that moment you may realize that social hierarchy exists and it is visible in the landscape. We were going down, down and down to earth, and finished our trip in the Golden Lion pub, a very popular local spot.

2nd year of the PhD: facing new challenges

Some people say that the 2nd year is the most exciting and easiest stage of the full PhD process. On the one hand, I agree with this, because at this point you know what you should do exactly and it is still far to write the whole thesis. On the other hand, each PGR student has its own path depending on her/his research project, so you never know what challenges may arise at this stage. During my 2nd year of the PhD in Sociology at the University of Manchester, I completed fieldwork, analyzed most of the empirical data, and gained teaching experience. I decided not to make these things all together and spent several months for each of these activities separately.

Teaching

In September 2018, I came back to Manchester from the 2nd field trip to Russia and as a teaching assistant joined two courses, Media, Culture & Society and Researching Culture & Society, given at the University of Manchester. Before the PhD I had already taught in Moscow Universities. However, as far as British and Russian systems of higher education differ, there was something new for me to learn. New teaching assistants have to take introductory courses explaining, for example, how to protect confidential information about students, how to solve a problem of cultural diversity in the classroom, how to assess students’ records and give feedback, etc. Only after the completion of these introductory courses you are allowed to start teaching.

IMG_2772The Whitworth Building of the University of Manchester. Photo by Alexandrina Vanke

From October to December 2018, I gave seminars (called tutorials at the University of Manchester) in four groups, in two for each of the course. There were approx. 10 students in each group. It took me two-three days of preparation, and one day of teaching. Normally teaching assistants should read the required and additional literature for tutorials (up to 10 positions for one tutorial) and facilitate a discussion in the classroom. Lecturers prepare questions for the discussion beforehand. You may be creative and add something else but a seminar has already a structure though. The things you are required to do is to help students to get answers to the questions based on the reading and support them in critical debating the issues formulated by the lecturer.

By the mid-autumn, each student had to submit a written work on one of the topics proposed by the lecturer and based on the recommended reading. For me, the assessment of students’ essays was the most time-consuming part of teaching. It was absolutely different from the assessment process I used to do in Russian Unis. At the University of Manchester, you should estimate an essay on a 100-point scale and explain in detail (i.e. to write feedback), why you gave a particular mark to a student. In addition, you should assess different elements of each essay on a 10-point scale, e.g. creativity, methodology, originality, critical reflection, arguments, etc.

IMG_2780.JPGThe campus of the University of Manchester. Photo by Alexandrina Vanke

At the time of teaching, I spent one-two days in the working week for my PhD research and sometimes weekends. In spite of new challenges, it was really great for me to change the activity: to switch from fieldwork to teaching. In addition, I got to know some new approaches from the course Media, Culture & Society, which I may use in PhD, and broadened knowledge in qualitative research methods thanks to the course Researching Culture & Society. At the beginning of December 2018, I went to Boston to present PhD research at the Annual Conference of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. After coming back to Manchester I gave the final class and in the next couple of days headed to Moscow to undertake the final phase of fieldwork.

Fieldwork

The research design of my PhD project ‘Working-class life and struggle in post-Soviet Russia’ is based on the approach of multi-sited ethnography and involved collecting ethnographic data in two localities. Fieldwork took place in two field sites and was split into three phases. By the end of the 1st year of the PhD (read more: here), I had two field trips to Yekaterinburg and Moscow and collected most of the empirical data in two industrial neighbourhoods located in these two cities. After the 2nd field trip, I formulated some new suggestions, which needed to be supported by additional empirical data.

To check the provisional arguments, I decided to undertake the 3rd phase of fieldwork in Moscow between December 2018 and January 2019. During this final field trip, I came back to the examined Moscow neighbourhood and conducted some more interviews with its residents. However, this phase aimed at researching the experiences of workers who took part in trade union activity. As far as this winter field trip coincided with long New Year celebrations in Russia, it was quite problematic to arrange meetings with potential participants. If people agreed for the interviews, our talks were long and occurred in a warm and relaxing atmosphere, sometimes over tea at the participant’s place.

Sociology PGR Colloquium

An announcement of my presentation at the colloquium. Made by Francisca Ortiz Ruiz

In February 2019, I finished collecting data and came back to Manchester being ready to move onto the next stage of data analysis. Finally, my database consisted of 53 ethnographic interviews, 155 pages of field notes, more than 550 photographs and other visual data. I was invited to present the PhD project at the PGR colloquium organized by my peers from Sociology. The process of preparation for the colloquium allowed me to build a more or less coherent visual narrative with sociological ethnography and to see that I had enough empirics for putting a puzzle together.

Data analysis

The spring semester of the 2nd year was fully dedicated to work with empirical data. First of all, interview transcripts needed anonymization and creation of an anonymization log with records about places data, which was removed or replaced by pseudonyms. I changed the names of research participants, and the names of their relatives and friends mentioned in interviews, the names of neighbourhoods, streets, and other recognizable spots, numbers of schools and house buildings, etc.

IMG_5238.JPGMy desk in the office of the Department of Sociology. Photo by Alexandrina Vanke

At the next stage, from March to July 2019, I coded all anonymized interview transcripts in NVivo 12 software. Before coding my supervisors advised me to choose three absolutely different interviews from the data set – I chose one interview from each of three fieldwork phases – and to create the initial codes, which changed slightly in the following process of coding. At the beginning, the codes looked a bit unstructured, but later I restructured them and generated child codes related to the key categories. On the one hand, the process of coding was routine and monotonous. On the other hand, coding in NVivo helped me to structure ethnographic data and create a detailed hierarchy of codes, which consists of more than 670 items now.

I generated some codes ‘bottom-up’ from empirical data and some codes ‘top-down’ by keeping in mind theory. Now it is clear that coding in NVivo was the first step toward bridging empirical data with theory, theory with empirical data in my PhD research. Emotions were also there. While rereading interviews, I was sometimes weeping, sometimes laughing. Well, the everyday life of workers in Russia is really hard, but there is also a place for humour and resilience.

IMG_5698Presenting PhD research at the BSA conference. Photo by Francisca Ortiz Ruiz

In April I presented the intermediated results of data analysis at the Annual Conference of the British Sociological Association which took place in Glasgow. May and June were fully spent on preparing a field report and other research documents for the annual review. In the field report, I tried to write a sociological ethnography – which was not easy for me – and figured out how the empirical chapters of the thesis may look like. At the end of the 2nd year of the PhD I presented the field report at the annual review. The reviewer gave me insightful feedback on empirical research and helpful advice on the theoretical framework. Inspired by the stimulating discussion at the annual review, I am looking forward to moving onto the next stage and starting writing the thesis.

Публикации 2018

В 2018 году вышли следующие мои статьи, посвященные исследованиям маскулинной телесности и территориальной идентичности в индустриальных районах.

Ваньке, Александрина (2018). Мужские тела, сексуальности и субъективности, Философско-литературный журнал Логос 28(4), сс. 85-108.

fresh-topleft.jpgАннотация. Углубление социального неравенства, которое автор связывает с глобальным распространением неолиберализма, усложняет систему властных отношений между мужскими телами и сексуальностями и ведет к дифференциации типов маскулинности. На материале 43 биографических интервью переосмысляются властные отношения внутри двух социально-профессиональных сред — так называемых синих и белых воротничков. Автор приходит к выводу, что через регулирование телесности сфера труда управляет эмоциональными отношениями и, как следствие, сексуальной жизнью мужчин из обеих групп. Наряду с этим режимы производственного и офисного труда генерируют разные логики управления мужской телесностью, которые воспроизводятся в приватной сфере и используются для создания мужской субъективности.

Основным ресурсом конституирования мужественности для рабочих служат физическая сила и умения, тогда как для офисных клерков — телесная репрезентация и перформанс. Следствием дифференциации в структуре труда становится неравенство возможностей создать «успешный» маскулинный субъект. Мужчины-рабочие называют себя «неудачниками», в то время как служащие считают себя «состоятельными», хотя и те и другие в равной степени выступают объектами эксплуатации. Телесный труд рабочего отчуждается в процессе управления телами на производстве, тогда как тело офисного клерка коммодифицируется и превращается в знак в системе символического обмена. Вместе с тем результаты исследования свидетельствуют о размывании средовых границ и ослаблении классового сознания, что позволяет мужчинам — рабочим и офисным служащим — применять сходные сексуальные стратегии, различающиеся лишь по форме и стилю. Маскулинная субъективность синих и белых воротничков включает одни и те же компоненты традиционной, либеральной и новой мужественности, которые отличаются по способам и формам выражения.

Ключевые слова:  мужчины; тело; сексуальность; синие воротнички; белые воротнички; труд; власть; эмоции; неравенство.

 

Ваньке, Александрина и Елизавета, Полухина (2018). Территориальная идентичность в индустриальных районах: культурные практики заводских рабочих и деятелей современного искусства, Laboratorium Журнал социальных исследований 10(3), сс. 4-34.

cover_issue_31_en_USАннотация. В статье рассматриваются территориальные идентичности, сформировавшиеся вокруг советских предприятий: завода имени И. А. Лихачева (ЗИЛ) в Москве и Уральского завода тяжелого машиностроения (Уралмаш) в Екатеринбурге. На примере двух кейсов авторы отвечают на вопрос о том, как создается территориальная идентичность индустриальных районов в постсоветской России. Авторы анализируют культурные практики в двух индустриальных районах и показывают, какой вклад в изменение их территориальных идентичностей вносят культурные акторы: представители творческих профессий и культурной среды, то есть научные работники, художники, архитекторы, фотографы, преподаватели высших учебных заведений, работники музеев, культурные и городские активисты. Исследование обнаруживает увеличение социального неравенства между резидентами индустриальных районов: рабочими и представителями других социальных групп. На фоне неолиберальной политики новые социальные акторы приходят в индустриальные районы, изменяя конфигурацию их социального состава. Оба кейса – территории вокруг завода имени И. А. Лихачёва и Уралмашзавода – демонстрируют наслоение разных типов идентичности и ассоциирующихся с ними культур рабочего и среднего классов. Так, в случае индустриальных районов мы можем говорить о множественной территориальной идентичности, которая выражается в том, что коренные жители и новые культурные акторы применяют классово дифференцированные «советские» и «постсоветские» культурные практики, воспроизводят «старые» и «новые» стили жизни.

Роль культурных акторов в формировании множественной территориальной идентичности индустриальных районов амбивалентна. С одной стороны, они вносят вклад в создание новой культурной среды и ведут работу по снятию маргинальных маркеров с промышленных территорий, делая эти районы более привлекательными для общегородских публик. С другой стороны, в процессе культурной экспансии резиденты индустриальных районов становятся «невидимой» социальной группой, лишенной возможности говорить публично. Культура рабочих, выражающаяся в практиках культурного потребления, сформировавшихся в советский период (например, посещение театров, музеев, домов культуры) и ремесленных навыках (например, вышивание, вязание, пошив одежды для женщин, а для мужчин создание предметов быта своими руками), обесценивается и не воспринимается как достойная внимания. Таким образом, деятельность культурных акторов вписана в общий тренд джентрификации и вытеснения рабочих за пределы промышленных территорий и публичного пространства. Вышеперечисленные процессы указывают на воспроизводство культурного, классового и территориального неравенств внутри индустриальных районов.

Ключевые слова: территориальная идентичность, индустриальный район, культурные практики, заводские рабочие, культурологический анализ классов

Первый год PhD. Как это было?

Первый год моего обучения на программе PhD по социологии в Манчестерском университете подошел к концу. Каким он был для меня? И как проходит обучение в английской аспирантуре? Постараюсь рассказать об этом.

Первое, с чем сталкивается PhD студент, приезжающий на учебу из другой страны, – это поиск жилья, улаживание бытовых проблем и знакомство с локальной инфраструктурой. На решение этих вопросов может потребоваться немало времени. Одним словом, первые месяцы уходят на адаптацию к жизни в новой среде. Лично у меня этот процесс занял два месяца. Параллельно с этим начинается посещение обязательных занятий в университете и взаимодействие с научными руководителями.

В первые два месяца мои научные руководители давали мне задания на написание коротких текстов, которые мы вместе разбирали на консультациях. Они заключались в том, чтобы прописать возможные стратегии исследования, сформулировать проблему, наметить теоретическую рамку. Однажды я получила задание нарисовать план-карту моего проекта с темой, ключевыми понятиями, исследовательскими вопросами, возможными вариантами мест сбора данных.

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Whitworth Hall Манчестерского университета

Наряду с выполнением заданий моих научных руководителей, я посещала занятия по академическому письму, развивая навыки написания научных текстов на английском. На первый взгляд может показаться, что писать по-английски просто, но когда сталкиваешься с созданием научного текста, то понимаешь, что это определенный жанр, требующий специфических навыков. Эти навыки заключаются в умении четко обосновывать свою позицию, распознавать аргументы других авторов и полемизировать с ними. Английское академическое письмо строится на силе аргумента.

Приобретению навыков строить аргументы способствует и обязательное для PhD студентов чтение научной литературы, которую условно можно разделить на три вида: классическая, новейшая, методологическая. При работе с научной литературой мне помогло составление конспекта и выписывание основных тезисов разных авторов, работающих в моей области.

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Кампус Манчестерского университета

После того, как мне удалось изучить необходимую литературу, я приступила к написанию литературного обзора, разработке исследовательского инструментария и составлению заявки на этическую комиссию. Этический комитет факультета или университета дает разрешение на проведение полевых работ. Последующие месяцы были посвящены более плотной работе над обзором литературы, обсуждению исследовательского дизайна с научными руководителями, созданию плана полевых работ, доработке текста обзора и укреплению аргументов.

В последних числах апреля у меня состоялась защита проекта, после чего начался этап полевых работ. 1-я фаза сбора данных проходила в Екатеринбурге, а 2-я фаза – в Москве. За год мне удалось развить навыки академического письма, расширить знания по современной литературе, познакомиться с рядом исследовательских методик, узнать, как устроен университет в Англии, и составить представление о ландшафте британской социологии. В целом, мой опыт прохождения первого года аспирантуры убедил меня в том, что PhD – это сложно, но в то же время интересно. Второй год обещает быть не менее насыщенным.

 

Russian Workers an ‘Invisible Class’ Since Collapse of Soviet Union, New Study Concludes

Text by: Paul Goble

Staunton, January 11 – Russians employed in factories have become “an invisible group” in society since 1991; and as a result, the identity even now is based largely on memories of the Soviet past as exacerbated by their sense of growing social inequality, according to a new study by the Higher School of Economics of workers at the Uralmash plant.

The study, prepared by Elizaveta Polukhina and Anna Strelnikova of the HSE and Alexandrina Vanke of the University of Manchester, notes that since the end of the Soviet Union, workers have received very little attention, including from sociologists and other scholars (iq.hse.ru/news/213569213.html).

This has left members of this group “lost” because they had been respected in Soviet times; but “in the 1990s everything changed completely.” They lost their former status in society and watched as their relative position in the income pyramid fell precipitously, the three researchers say.

Uralmash, set up in the northern section of Yekaterinburg in 1927 was a workers’ settlement based on a number of factories. It was one of dozens of such settlements in Soviet times. At present, more than 190,000 people live there, a number far lower than in the past. The HSE researchers conducted deep interviews with a number of the remaining workers.

These settlements, the sociologists say, were intended to provide everything the workers needed and to root them to one place. As such, they served as an important component of the Soviet system of control. But despite what many might think, many there now recall that arrangement as a positive thing.

Most of the workers now say they felt like “part of a large family,” one in which their days and even their lives were predictable and in which they could expect to be taken care of cradle to grave. They say they were proud to be “simple Soviet people,” a category that they defined more in ethical terms than in class ones.

For these workers, the collapse of the Soviet system as completely negative and remains so. And if they were quite happy to talk about the Soviet period, they were much more restrained in discussing the 1990s, the three sociologists say. For them, that period meant wage arrears, the loss of many fellow workers, and search for a new place in life.

The sociologists say that even now, workers at Uralmash view themselves as “innocent ‘victims of circumstances.’” As a result, “the contemporary identity of workers is a kind of mix which includes Soviet and post-Soviet practices, meanings and values,” but it still focuses on values rather than income alone.

“This doesn’t mean that class distinctions have disappeared entirely. To a large extent,” the three write, “identity is defined as a result of a sense of social stratification.” Workers don’t feel comfortable dealing with managers or owners and don’t have the same social cohesion they once had particularly as younger workers gain education and move away.

Read the orginal text here.

Transformation of Working-Class Identity in Post-Soviet Russia

We present the results of our group project The Everyday Life of Industrial Workers: Ethnographic Case-Study of Industrial Neighborhood in Yekaterinburg, conducted by me, Elizaveta Polukhina and Anna Strelnikova, in the working paper The Transformation of Working-Class Identity in Post-Soviet Russia: A Case-Study of an Ural Industrial Neighborhood.

Abstract

This paper presents an analytical description of working-class identity in three key periods of the socioeconomic transformations which changed the structure of a plant’s industry and working-class life: the Soviet era (1930s-1980s), the time of economical change (1990s), and the post-Soviet years (2000s-2010s). The analytical framework of the study is based on the concept of ‘cultural class analysis’ (Savage 2015). It includes the concepts of habitus and cultural capital, and culture as embedded in economic and social relations (Bourdieu 1980).

In the course of the research we conducted an ethnographic case-study in 2017 and lived in the neighborhood of Uralmash, which was designed for workers of a heavy machinery plant dating back to the 1920s in the city of Yekaterinburg. Based on 15 in-depth interviews with Uralmash workers living in the neighborhood and 8 experts, and our field observations, we discovered 3 restructuring shapes of the Uralmash worker identity. These working class identities shapes referred to 3 determined periods. The Soviet period showed a ‘consistent’ working-class identity of the Uralmash workers, whereby the plant and working spirits were the centers of their lives. The 1990s was marked by severe deterioration of workers’ social conditions and the loss of their familiar bearings in life. As a consequence, the Uralmash workers perceived themselves as ‘victims of circumstances’ with ‘collapsing’ worker identity in 1990s. Currently, ‘Soviet’ and ‘post-Soviet’ practices and values are combined in today’s ‘mixing’ and an inconsistent worker identity. The notions of ‘simple’ and ‘working-class’ as sense-making images are encapsulated in nostalgic memories and retain their role as criteria for the delineation between inequalities and social discrimination along the ‘them’ and ‘us’: ‘we are those who live belonging to the past’. The Soviet past still continues to be an important sense-making resource; in fact, it is the only ‘universal’ prop for them that support their subjective perception of themselves.

Keywords: Industrial Neighborhood, Worker, Working-Class Identity, Ethnographic Case-Study

Elizaveta, Polukhina and Strelnikova, Anna and Vanke, Alexandrina, The Transformation of Working-Class Identity in Post-Soviet Russia: A Case-Study of an Ural Industrial Neighborhood (November 22, 2017). Higher School of Economics Research Paper No. WP BRP 77/SOC/2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3075749

Masculinities, Bodies and Subjectivities

A book Masculinity, Labour, and Neoliberalism. Working-Class Men in International Perspective edited by Charlie Walker and Steven Roberts with my contribution Masculinities, Bodies and Subjectivities: Working-Class Men Negotiating Russia’s Post-Soviet Gender Order has been finally published by Palgrave Mcmillan.

Abstract

This chapter considers the interrelation between masculinities, bodies and subjectivities of Russian working-class men generated by Russia’s post-Soviet gender order. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to large transformations in Russian society that changed its social structure significantly. During the period of transition, some social classes and groups, which had been sustained by the state and respected in Soviet times, were devalued and downshifted. Working-class people, especially men, experienced this downgrade in the greatest measure. Building on the approaches by Michel Foucault and Raewyn Connell, the chapter examines masculine subjectivities constituted through body and sexual practices of working-class men, and it explains the peculiarities of post-Soviet gender order reflecting Russia’s new forms of socioeconomic politics. The author defines several types of working-class masculinity, which are classic masculine subjectivity reproducing patterns of the Soviet gender order and trying to sustain a normative gender model; and new masculine subjectivity combining neoliberal and counter-neoliberal patterns which can be divided into consuming and protest masculinities.

Cite this chapter as: Vanke A. (2018) Masculinities, Bodies and Subjectivities: Working-Class Men Negotiating Russia’s Post-Soviet Gender Order. In: Walker C., Roberts S. (eds) Masculinity, Labour, and Neoliberalism. Global Masculinities. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

How do social factors determine which music, fashions, trends, films etc become pop culture phenomena and which don’t?

My answer to the question “How do social factors determine which music, fashions, trends, films etc become pop culture phenomena and which don’t?” on the website TheQuestion UK


According to one sociological approach, music, films, books, clothes, and other cultural goods become popular among mass audiences through the mechanism of competitive struggle between various social groups.

The social groups that are important in the fields of fashion and culture production are those that possess a large amount of capital (in terms of Pierre Bourdieu),e.g.: economic capital, cultural capital, symbolic capital, etc.

These resource groups are made up of:
a) dominating classes (the elite, bourgeoisie),
b) producers of cultural products (designers, couturiers),
c) staff of fashion-papers (editors, journalists), and
d) other collective agents who set the fashionable styles.

Thus, popular culture is the result of the interplay between many agents and conventional consumers who are mostly represented by middle-class buyers, who in turn try to perform upward social mobility with the help of improving the appearance, consuming fashionable goods, reading popular literature, watching new films, etc.

However, through the exercise of these imitative practices, conventional consumers are only engaged in symbolic mobility, while their actual social positions remain the same. This means that in societies with a well-defined class structure, dominating classes, as well as agents with specific competencies from fashion and mass media industries, set the trends that are accepted by the ordinary public.