My new article Co-existing structures of feeling: Senses and imaginaries of industrial neighbourhoods is out in The Sociological Review. This post summarises its key points. This is a first publication from my doctoral project exploring working-class life and struggle in post-Soviet Russia, which I completed at the University of Manchester in 2021.
In the article, I provide an empirically grounded theorisation of the concept of structure of feeling introduced by sociologist Raymond Williams. Williams defined structure of feeling differently in his works. According to one of his definitions, structure of feeling can be viewed as ‘the spirit of the age’ reflecting the collective cultural feelings of a period or an era. Williams’s another understanding of structure of feeling is related to the lived experiences of working-class communities which have a particular way of life.
While Williams applied structures of feeling mainly in regard to English literature and film, I suggest bringing this concept in sociology of space and place and urban anthropology. In the article, I extend structure of feeling, drawing on my multi-sited ethnography in two industrial neighbourhoods located in the cities of Moscow and Yekaterinburg, Russia.
I conceptualise structure of feeling by focusing on its affective mechanisms regulating senses, imaginaries and practical activities of residents of the two neighbourhoods studied. This ethnographic conceptualisation of structure of feeling allows me to explain better everyday life and local atmospheres in the urban areas undergoing deindustrialisation. The article answers the question of how working-class and longstanding middle-class residents sense and imagine their neighbourhoods.
The article builds on rich multi-sensory data derived from my PhD project: 50 interview transcripts, more than 150 pages of field notes, more than 550 photographs and 43 drawings of the industrial neighbourhoods made by research participants. I show how to apply multi-sited ethnography in the study of the lived experiences of local communities in two locations. I also explain how to use a method of drawing, also known as a mental mapping technique, in research on structures of feeling and deindustrialisation.
© The image by artist Polina Nikitina based on my ethnographic data
My research has revealed that working-class and longstanding middle-class residents show an affective attachment to place informed by an industrial residual structure of feeling. An industrial structure of feeling comprises values of factory culture, communality and shared space, while an emergent structure of feeling is informed by values of neoliberal development, individual comfort and private space. Both neighbourhoods studied have its particular local atmosphere driven by complicated relationships between socialist/ Soviet / industrial and post-socialist/ post-Soviet/ post-industrial structures of feeling. That is why, I suggest understanding structure of feeling not as a spirit of the time but as a multiple spirit of the time and place.
I develop further this theorisation in my book The urban life of workers in post-Soviet Russia: Engaging in everyday struggle to be published by Manchester University Press. Focusing on the issue of inequality, the book provides a novel account of urban life in post-industrial cities. One of its empirical chapters is partly based on this article.
You can find the article OnlineFirst on the website of The Sociological Review.
If you find the information from this post helpful and decide to use it in your publications, please cite:
Vanke, A. (2023). Co-existing structures of feeling: Senses and imaginaries of industrial neighbourhoods. The Sociological Review, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/00380261221149540