Research article on structure of feeling

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 created from my ethnographic data by artist Polina Nikitina

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: 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

The publications digest

There were no posts in this blog for ten months for some objective reasons. I am currently writing the book The urban life of workers in post-Soviet Russia to be published by Manchester University Press.  

In 2022, I had some publications, which came out but were not covered in the blog. This post presents the digest of those and forthcoming publications.

1. Together with Andrea Lizama and Denisse Sepúlveda, I co-edited a special section on social mobility and inequality issued in Sociological Research Online.

Cite article: Lizama-Loyola, A., Sepúlveda, D., & Vanke, A. (2022). Making Sense of Social Mobility in Unequal Societies. Sociological Research Online, 27(1), 95–100. https://doi.org/10.1177/13607804211066120

The special section takes a global perspective on different aspects of subjective social mobility and inequality. It includes six contributions covering the themes of political debate about social mobility in the UK and collective social mobility of working-class communities in Wales, intersectional inequality experienced by British-born Bengali Muslim women of working-class origin and educational mobility of people from different social backgrounds in Chile, social mobility of rural students in China and Chilean people’s experiences of long-range upward mobility shaped by meritocratic narratives.

Continue reading “The publications digest”