Review of Summer School 2008 in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

Published: 1 October 2008

Postgraduate Research Methodology Summer School: Aspects of Identity & Culture

Postgraduate Research Methodology Summer School: Aspects of Identity & Culture

The second CRCEES Summer School was focused on the themes of identity and culture and hosted at the Centre for Independent Social Science Research, St Petersburg (TsNSI). A total of 23 students attended the summer school: 12 UK-based students (11 of which were drawn from CRCEES partner institutions), 7 Russian students, 2 Romanian students, and 1 student each from Belarus and Poland. The 8 tutors included 4 from the CRCEES network, 2 from CRCEES' Russian partner institution - Region Scientific Research Centre, U'lianovsk State University - as well as representatives from Samara State University, the European University at St Petersburg, and our host institution TsNSI. We also welcomed guest speakers Father Chris and Elena Hill.

The Summer School took place in July and benefitted from fine weather and the long day light hours ('white nights') characteristic of such latitudes during summer.

The Summer School took place in the heart of St Petersburg at the premises of the Centre for Independent Social Science Research, located just a short walk from the main thoroughfare of Nevskii Prospekt. This provided an ideal location for exploring the diverse social, culture and historical characteristics of the city.

The Summer School programme was split into 5 main phases. Phase 1 introduced key concepts via a series of Master classes. These included sessions on discourse analysis, youth identities, subcultures and counter cultures, and ethics in research practice.

Phase 2 consisted of a series of thematic sessions covering:

  • an exploration of the city through the male and female gaze;
  • an examination of identities/identity construction in the city;
  • an examination of the themes of vulnerability and marginality via a focus on migrants and young people and
  • a session on conceptual approaches towards understanding socio-cultural landscapes.

Phase 3 comprised two main city excursions – one by water and one by bus. The river boat excursion was led by Drs Julia Lajus and Alexey Kraykovskiy (European University at St Petersburg). They provided a thoroughly absorbing tour of the city's key historical and cultural sites and simultaneously introduced us all to an entirely unique view of the city. Many took the opportunity during these two days to visit additional parts of the city as well as the parks and palace at Peterhof. Additional walking tours focussed on historic and literary aspects of the city were led by Margaret Tejerizo.

Phases four and five were devoted to group projects. Tutors provided morning drop-in sessions for those groups interested in discussing ideas. Each group had three days in which to devise a project based on the main themes of the Summer School, carry out primary research, and then put together a 45 minute presentation. In addition to presenting their key findings, each group was expected to provide a clear justification of their chosen approach and methodological framework in addition to indicating how ethical and related issues were addressed. Groups were also encouraged to reflect on the process of doing the research. Group presentations included:

  • a critical evaluation of group perceptions of St Petersburg;
  • the phenomenon of the metrosexual;
  • an exploration of migrant labour, 
  • a reflection on the experience of Nevskii Prospekt mediated by advertising; and
  • work, leisure and identity in the urban landscape.

The final day of the Summer School included a certificate ceremony, evening Party and late night/early morning dance.

While the working days were long, typically starting early morning with optional Russian classes and stretching into the late evening, the combination of 'white nights', the varied cultural attractions and the high stamina levels of the student body provided the opportunity for evening visits to the theatre and ballet as well as to view more unusual activities such as the night-time 'raising of the bridges' along the Neva. Others took the opportunity to watch evening screenings of films pertinent to the key themes of the Summer School.

First published: 1 October 2008