International workshop: Agency and social change in provincial Russia

Published: 19 May 2008

The University of Glasgow hosted an international workshop on 'Agency and social change in provincial Russia' on 2 April 2008.

The University of Glasgow hosted an international workshop on 'Agency and social change in provincial Russia' on 2 April 2008.

The event was intended to further develop existing collaborative links between researchers based in Glasgow and in Ul'ianovsk, Russia, all engaged in qualitative and ethnographic research projects on the topics of identity, agency and social change in the provincial city of Ul'ianovsk. It aimed at providing a platform for disseminating findings from existing projects, as well as discussing and developing future research agendas, with a view to generate grant proposals to support further cross-cultural research.

The workshop also had the purpose of developing collaborative networks within Glasgow research institutions, the CRCEES network and beyond, involving early career researchers and postgraduate students in particular.

Participants included both researchers with a specific interest in Russia and scholars who share an interest in broader thematic, theoretical and methodological issues addressed by the speakers. The workshop was advertised through Glasgow University and CRCEES networks, and attended by academic staff and PhD students from the Departments of Politics and Sociology, Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences at Glasgow.

In addition, researchers from Strathclyde and St Andrews University expressed interest, and practitioner-researchers working outside of academia for NHS Scotland and local councils also attended the workshop. This wide range of participants generated lively debate.

The workshop was introduced by impulse papers from Glasgow and Ul'ianovsk researchers, covering a range of contemporary issues, including:

  • Women's use of rights-based approaches (Vikki Turbine);
  • Lesbian networks' appropriation of public and private space (Francesca Stella);
  • The importance of rituals around dealth and burial in forming home identities among German-Russians (Sophie Mamattah);
  • Young women's use of networks in rural areas (Irina Kosterina);
  • The development of youth patriotism (Elena Omel'chenko);
  • Access to higher education (Evgeniia Luk'ianova) and
  • Daily bodily practices among young people in Ul'ianovsk (Natal'ia Goncharova).

In the second part of the workshop, future research agendas were discussed and common themes and interests were identified. A proposal to develop a research project on changing definitions of the state and individual/collective spaces of agency was put forward; the project would examine the interaction between formal/informal, state/non-state and private/ public spheres.

Possible follow-up initiatives and sources of funding to develop the proposal were discussed; these included a bid for a series of ESRC workshops in Britain and a follow-up workshop in Russia, organised with the financial support of the British Academy and of the BASEES Study Group for Contemporary Societies.

Papers presented at the workshop will be published in a Special Issue of Europe-Asia Studies in June 2009. The special issue will form the basis for a similar publication in Russian, due for release in 2010.

The workshop was followed by the third Alexander Lazarev Lecture, organised by the Slavonic Studies Section of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. The workshop also marked the beginning of the conference 'Remembering 1948 and 1968 - Reflections on Two Pivotal Years in Czech and Slovak History', organised by CEES and CRCEES.

The workshop was organised with the financial support and the logistical assistance of the Adam Smith Research Foundation, the Department of Central & East European Studies and the Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies (CRCEES).

The event organisers: Francesca Stella and Sophie Mamattah (Central and East European Studies, University of Glasgow) and Vikki Turbine (Glasgow Caledonian University) would like to acknowledge and thank everyone involved in contributing to the workshop.

First published: 19 May 2008