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Annual BASEES 2012 Conference, March 31 – April 2, 2012
Ideologies of Professionalism in Russian Welfare State

4/2: Just leaving Cambridge and surprised at what fun was had. The conference was populated by European academics with whom I infrequently meet as well as colleagues from nearby London.

I connected with Svetlana Stephenson (London Metropolitan U). We were on the same panel with her talking about delinquency in Russia and re-education programs, where violent gang members are disciplined with cooking classes and soviet style discourses that that appeal to cultural higher ideologies, how to behave in public places and the like. I could not help likening the irony of treatment to cultural heritage practices in the United States, without which the economic function for such products, would appear equally unusual in neoliberal conditions.

There was an absolutely wonderful talk given by Susanna Rabow-Edling (Uppsala U, Sweden) titled Women and Empire in the Russian Colonization of America, in which she explores what it was like to be a European woman in Alaska during the 19th century, the role of domesticity, how they felt obliged to take part in the civilizing mission, and how they experienced America, how civilization and family was linked.

Susanna focused on the wives of three Alaska governors of Russian America, whose views were circumscribed by limited access to society beyond their official domain. As the foremost female representatives of empire, they had special obligations to represent the empire but also to spread the feminine notion. They were not appointed, did not contribute to anything by way of operation of the Russian-American company, but nevertheless held the highest possible (female gendered) position in the colony. So, in a sense, they were positioned to legitimize the civilizing project. For all three women she examines (whose names escape me) the way they enter a cult of womanhood, young and newly wed when they set out. Thus, for their journey into a new world and into married life, both destinations were unknown to them.

According to Susanna, Mrs. Von Wrangel was aware of this role and tried to fulfill it to the best of her ability. In fact, both Von Wrangles represented the Russian empire without being Russian. They were Baltic Germans, the most privileged minorities in the empire known for their loyalty to the Czar, though this did not stop them from making a criticism of Russia.

Another of the wives, Anna (get full reference) was much less prepared to deal with the world, landscape, climate, Indians, everything. The wilderness and Indians scared her. She also found the Russians less civilized, did not appreciate the sacredness of marriage, and was struck by the immorality of frontier life. “Can nothing be done to turn them from [their] unrighteousness”. In her failed attempt to change things, she invested her effort to be perfect wife and mother, and developed a position of herself as the cult of womanhood. Margarita Etolian set high standards for herself as mother, wife, Christian. She reproached herself for homesickness and took the blame for grief over her son’s death. Her stay in Sitka was entirely affected by the death of her son and she fell into deep depression

Anyway, you get the message. It was fabulous. I approached Susanna later, talking about my own work on Kodiak Island, interested in the distance between the Creole population and these types of Russian emissaries. We exchanged ideas, a few book titles, and promised to stay in touch.

On Saturday, there was a promising panel on Europe-Russian energy relations that I absolutely had to get up for by 9AM. And this was despite me and three other conference mates, including Svetlana and Tina Schivatcheva (U Cambridge) going out the evening before and whiling away the hours in the pub, talking about everything from advertising to energy. But nevertheless, at the energy panel was Chair, Jonathan Oldfield (U Glasgow), Jack Sharples (U Glasgow), talking about EU-Russian Energy Relations: The Russian Perspective; Andrew Judge (U Strathclyde), speaking on Securitizing EU gas supplies: threats and responses; Tomas Maltby (University of Manchester), referring to EU energy security policy: New member states; and Domenico Ferrara (U Warwick), on Understanding EU-Russia energy relations through a discursive approach.

Well. It was interesting. Two things struck me. First, since summer 2010, most observers of Russian energy have been repeating the same story (shale gas in US and recession creating dilemmas in Russian export and possibly threat of spot markets in Europe, threatening security of export, while security of supply is put on hold). Second, I asked the question of what these researchers were identifying as the new element or the edge upon which is new in discussions of Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea. Not much of a response really, but in fact, there was an interesting statement of the focus on supply-demand interactions, that is, the project has shifted from a national priority to an economic proposal.

And this is important, because you see this in Alaska, a shift form exuberant ignorance to mature knowing, a movement from a belief in these projects based on a lack of data for how they can move forward, and then a sobering up based on the realization that these projects in the Arctic require so much effort and cash.


What else… I attended a great panel on Russian media, consumption and social change, chaired by Kaarle Nordenstreng (U Tampere, Finland) with papers by Olga Gurova (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, U Helsinki) delivering Shopping for fashion in post-socialist Russia, Jukka Pietiläinen (Aleksanteri-Institute, U Helsinki) speaking on Magazine Cosmopolitan and changing values of Russians, Saara Ratilainen (U Tampere, Finland) on What to wear?: Class, gender and consumption in post-Soviet glossy media.


This was a great panel, beginning with a review of Michel Foucault‘s (1972 – 119-120) discussion of the function of statements as applied to constituting glamour and literary culture. Glamour—fashion and elite lifestyles and glossy magazines. Glossy consumer magazines, miscellaneous collection of text and materials, that do not provide a stable point of reference for genre. Popular media discourse, commerce and on literary field and publication in particular. Discourse of glossy literature, commercial and discourse – for example, citing On the Borders of Literature (2007) Boris Dubin (?), surrounding what organizes the Russian literary field and its shift from vertical distribution system to horizontal system and horizontal networks.

Optimistic discourse. Adornian pessimistic views at work when dealing with the commercial field. Literature has changed to entertainment industry. Fashion books because celebrities recommend them, they attach themselves to the consumer and bought at department stores along side other consumer books.

It has to be changed all the time, as a bag, clothing. Fashion book attached to a list of other consumer items, handbag, lipstick, replaceable. Side product of entertainment industry. Literary discourse. Consumption on the one hand and culture on the other. Books sold and read under the influence of market forces (consumption) versus books to subject others under elite position (psychological cultivation). Different hierarchies of culture. What kind of elite culture is a persons of consumption supposed to stand for, facts that stand some one outside the cultural elite.

Glossy – lack of cultural content. Glossificiation, corrupts the cultural value – a term used used to address a situation of market economy and produce reports. Sell the ideas by glossification. Glossy magazine industry is so huge and came so fast. Pessimistic discourse, a symbol of widening gap between rich and poor, and superficial aspect of capitalism. Gender and age difference in the relationship to gossip. Referring to things in print as “not only” a glossy magazine because “this gives useful information”. In the West, already overcome the attachment to things and are highly consumers versus Russians. Conspicuous consumption.

Well, all this was quite good, because the idea of the glossy is in consultant reports, and one might argue that the glossification of expert knowledge plays an important role in reducing the complexity of facts into forms of simplicity that serve as the basis of gloss.

Note to self, Katja Koikkalainen, U Helsinki, Aleksanteri Instititute, examines Russian journalists.

4PM: Wow, I just completed my talk. Glad that is over. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how much sense I made, and this was primarily because of the two speakers before me, when after listening to what they were saying on the role of the state and subject, I found my footing concerning experts in the West and in Russia. Phew. I love when that happens. Global Russians, that is definitely a topic that people are interested in and I was peppered with questions over it.

Noon: I just arrived at the Fitzwilliam college in Cambridge, and had a meal of tasty cucumber sandwiches meeting my fellow colleagues, all of whom I do not know and in fact, it may be that the organizer of my panel has not shown up. I do not see him on the panel at any rate. So we have a speaker now, Ivan Krastev, who is being introduced just this minute as a public intellectual. A long list of titles and awards are being rambled off, Wildrow Wilson fellow, University of Freiberg Suisse, fellow, contributing frequently to Le Monde, Wall Street Journal and so on and so forth. Applause. His first words suggests that he is not a straight “academic”  — okay, now advice on what to speak about. First, things that we feel comfortable about, second, things we know nothing about but have a curiosity for. And the second is the theme of his talk he plans to explore. His talk is the result of a “travel”, to a series of conferences in which experts are talking about why things have worked since 1989 in Eastern Europe. First, he is surprised how little populous backlash takes place during reforms, and second, an absence of anti-European rhetoric in a post-democratic capitalism and not backlash against Europe for intervention into Eastern Europe.

To what extent can you make sense of the austerity state? He begins with a comparison to the 1930s, initial distrust was replaced by a trust that the government could deliver. In the 1970s, a loss of trust, but a regained trust in market. Today, you have a loss of trust in market and loss of trust in government.

Constitutionalization of economic policies suggests there is no politics in Europe that can change the economic situation. Whereas in authoritarian capitalism in China and Russia, there is no political alternative. Whereas earlier, the idea was to make Greece out of Bulgaria (the model that Eastern Europe was striving for) – today, the idea is to make a Bulgaria out of Greece.

Having a debate about the future of the European Union. How universal is Europe? To what extent is it assumed that Europe worked in Eastern Europe, how could it then work in Greece and Spain?

Mentions Political Economy of Patience. Radical change was based on negative consensus of the past, of the socialist period, a critical perspective on the welfare state, that people wanted to get rid of. This is not the case today, in southern Europe for example. Second, was absence of a legitimate discourse for attacking reforms. Not the case in Southern Europe. Strongest argument, was part of the communist legacy, the ability to create collective action to handle reform. Today, in southern Europe, not the case. And for these contextual reasons, you will never make Bulgaria out of Greece

Today, Europe faces a high risk situation in creating constitutional economic policy, that is less rigid. The debt state unable to envision anything about the future. We are living in a never ending present. The future has disappeared. This was a great talk by the way, fabulous, but what is really interesting, is that there is no discussion of climate change. how wacky is that? There is no future in politics, and there is only the future in climate change.

3/6: Looking for time when I can put together a paper on my Skolkovo experience. Prospecting here, starting to think out loud, in a casual way, how to approach expertise and government sponsored innovation in Russia.

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