It’s been almost a year since the conclusion of my major dissertation fieldwork in Petrozavodsk, Russia, and the end of March 2014 finds me back in the city doing follow-up work. Coming out of the train station, it felt like I had never left. I can’t wait to see everyone face to face.
The day-to-day work of processing and writing up ethnographic data can feel like a grind, but coming back to my fieldsite puts it all in perspective. It’s exhilarating to look back on the past year and realize how much has actually gotten done. Best of all, I get to do something I’ve never done before – a super-duper ethnographer rite of passage. I’m going over to visit one of my research participants, and I bringing her a copy of an edited volume, in Russian, in which my chapter is concerned with a concept that springs entirely from my interviews with her. That is – I actually get to hand someone a book in which their words are quoted, and in a language they can read.
Of course, this is also a nerve-wracking moment. Along with the excitement of seeing her name in print, my collaborator will also have to put up with me asking her to tell me if she thinks I got it right – or wrong. Not only for the article, but also for the various chapters of my dissertation that are in progress. I have no idea whether she will find this boring, exhilarating, or what. But, I feel that I’m making good on the thing I’m always telling my students – that it’s your research participants that you’re first and foremost accountable to; these are their stories, and you are just a human megaphone, boosting the signal, getting the stories out there.
First, there’s the aforementioned chapter in Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova and Pavel Romanov’s 2013 volume in Russian on the Russian Public Sphere. It’s a great volume all around, with various articles from both established (Elena Trubina) and up-and-coming (Olga Verbilovich, Valeria Markina) Russian sociologists/theorists, and I’m honored to be included. My chapter “Welcome to Sergeichburg: imagining spaces of difference and disability in Russian digital publics” attempts to theorize how representations of disability in the Russian public sphere both open up crip possibilities and reproduce stigma by focusing on the work of Sergei Kutergin, a comedian I like to call “the Russian Josh Blue”.
Second, a related piece, on the same comedian, will appear in Russian and in English in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Social Policy Studies. JSPS is a publication that publishes amazing work by Russian sociologists in Russian, and I’m very lucky to get to be one of the first people whose work will appear in the journal’s new iteration, which is to include two dual-language (Russian and English) articles in each issue. Here is the link to the live issue. This is also the first appearance of any of the material from my dissertation research in English.
Third, at long last, an article that has been in the works for many, many years is out in the recent issue of Disability Studies Quarterly. “A Genealogy of (post-)Soviet Dependency: Disabling Productivity” started out as a paper presentation at SOYUZ, the postsocialist interest group of the American Anthropological Association, and eventually became a Zola Award winning essay from the Society for Disability Studies.