Working-class life and struggle

Between 2017 and 2021, I was working on the doctoral project Working-class life and struggle in post-Soviet Russia at the University of Manchester. After its completion, I earned a PhD degree in Sociology. The results of that project underlay my single-authored monograph The urban life of workers in post-Soviet Russia which is now in the publication process with Manchester University Press.

Drawing on multi-sited ethnography, this research examines the everyday lives and struggles of workers in two industrial neighbourhoods located in the Russian cities of Moscow and Yekaterinburg. The study addresses three interrelated sub-themes: workers’ lives in urban industrial areas; the everyday inequalities they face; and the everyday struggles in which they engage. The data upon which the project is based includes 53 interviews and more than 150 pages of field notes and visual data produced by the researcher and research participants. The study’s overarching research question asks why workers living in particular socio-material conditions become engaged in specific forms of everyday struggles – or do not.

© Illustraion by Alexandrina Vanke based on ethnographic data from her research

The project results have been published in the research article:

This article explores how structures of feeling shape everyday life and local atmospheres in two industrial neighbourhoods located in the cities of Moscow and Yekaterinburg. Developing Raymond Williams’s concept of structure of feeling, I conceptualise it as an affective principle regulating sensual experiences, spatial imaginaries and practical activities of local communities within socio-material infrastructures. I argue that Soviet (socialist/industrial/residual) and post-Soviet (neoliberal/post-industrial/emergent) structures of feeling co-exist in senses, imaginaries and the landscapes of Russia’s deindustrialising urban areas. Working-class and long-standing middle-class residents show an affective attachment to place and tend to imagine their neighbourhoods with the help of an industrial structure of feeling comprising 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. Drawing on multi-sited ethnography in two locations, this article provides an empirically grounded theorisation of the concept of structure of feeling by bringing it in sociology of space and place and urban anthropology. It contributes to the debate about place attachment of deindustrialising communities and their vision of the past, present and future of their neighbourhoods by an extended understanding of structure of feeling not as a spirit of the time but as a multiple spirit of the time and place.

Other materials related to the article:

More publications from this project are coming soon.

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