Week 3 photos: In honor of Kazan’

The wall of the Kremlin in Kazan’.

I had a silly collection of photos planned for this weekend. But then the news has been reporting bursts of violence not only in the Caucasus, from which such stories have become almost routine, but also in Kazan’, the capital of the republic of Tatarstan. Continue reading


Week 2 photos: The Garden Ring

Moscow, like many cities with medieval roots, is circular at heart. Around the core of the city is  a linked set of boulevards called the “Garden Ring”, which hosts a number of monuments and small park spaces. When the weather is nice, it’s a very popular place to stroll.

Above, Vladimir Vysotsky, a Soviet-era singer/songwriter slash poet who earned an official living as an actor. Think Bob Dylan, with a dose of censorship and authoritarian repression, ending in a tragic death in the midst of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Even though no official announcement was made, tens of thousands turned out for his funeral. Just listen.

More photos here.

Still making friends with IRB

My very small IRB story

A week or two before I left the US to come back to the field, I went ahead and submitted an application for renewal of my IRB approval for this project. (This ethics approval has to be renewed yearly as long as the research is still going on.) I’d gotten approval last autumn from the UW IRB, going through what I think is a pretty typical round of back-and-forth about specific wording and explicit clarification of protocols on certain forms:

Please confirm that any identifiable information disclosed by a participant about someone else who is not participating in the research will be removed from the data and not used in any publications.

As the researchers cannot guarantee that the research presents no risks to participants, please revise this statement to read “no anticipated risks.”

But I figured the renewal would go smoothly, given that I was continuing the same project and hadn’t made any changes in my project design–I’m still talking to the same kinds of people I had planned to, using the same basic interview structure, and so on. Continue reading

Week 1: Photo catalog

I’m setting myself an exercise: each week find a collection of things in Moscow to photograph. This week, I collected some sidewalk ads. Unlike the chalked-on slogans and notices I see around university campuses in the US, these are spray-painted on, often repeated a few times within a block or two. They tend to proliferate around busy metro exits, promoting websites, services, even offering directional help for nearby shops or restaurants. It’s a pretty functional genre, but still a part of the pedestrian landscape. More here.

I support Pussy Riot, but. . .

A young woman at an opposition protest in April. The newspaper headline reads: “Freedom for Pussy Riot.”

[Sorry this is a bit long! It’s a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about, and will continue to think through. Comments welcome!]

As the (probable) end of the trial nears for the three Russian women being held responsible for Pussy Riot’s punk prayer/concert/ protest/provocation in the Church of Christ the Savior, I’ve been following Western/English-language coverage of the whole deal with some interest. The story we’re getting seems to be: Three artist-feminists stood up against Putin, bravely spoke truth to power, and are being threatened with years in prison for an act which we (liberal, freedom-loving Westerners) would honor as freedom of speech. Western artists (just last night, Madonna in Moscow!) have taken up the cause, lauding the women for their heroism against abusive government power.

It’s a heartening tale, right? I get it, too—how often do we get to see news about young women—creative, articulate, intense—making a stir on the political scene? My inner wannabe punk rocker is cheering.

But, having been in Moscow during part of this affair, and having talked with my own young, urban, intellectual friends and acquaintances about it, I’m frustrated about what’s lacking in this story. And not just because the anthropologist’s favorite phrase is, “well, it’s more complicated than that.”  Continue reading

Back in Russia!

Ok, summer break is over and I’ll be posting updates again. I arrived late on Friday and have been settling in, working on getting my registration, orienting to my new neighborhood and so on. And behold, what do we see in the English-language news?

Pussy Riot! (Ex: here, and here, and here)

Exciting stuff for sure. I’m developing some thoughts and will try to have a post up tomorrow about the media coverage, as well as some ideas about what the Pussy Riot affair shows about politics in Russia. For now, a few photos to establish a sense of place. Continue reading