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Zinaida Vasilyeva

Do-it-yourself practices and technical knowledge in late Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia
 
The project seeks to contribute to the anthropology of everyday life in (post)socialist societies by examining an important but previously neglected social phenomenon in the Soviet Union. The project proposes an investigation of practical knowledge in the USSR focusing on DIY practices that were widespread during the Soviet period. In addition to traditional arts and crafts, ordinary Soviet citizens constructed television sets, radios, refrigerators, and a number of smaller gadgets used in everyday life. Furthermore, they did so in the context of official Marxist-Leninist ideology, which asserted the indivisibility of the worker and the product of his or her labor.
We plan to inquire into: (a) the relationship between, on the one hand, practical skills and day-to-day routines and, on the other hand, knowledge and ideology; (b) the ways in which particular knowledge becomes mobilized across spatial and temporal contexts (shifts from workplace to domestic space, from work hours to free time); and (c) the controversial meanings of “materiality” in Soviet and post-Soviet society. This project will challenge commonly constructed oppositions between consumption and production, manual and intellectual labor, work and leisure time activities, invention and routine, high and popular design, and educated and everyday taste.
We will study the construction of “knowledge” while contributing to a larger field of the social history of the late USSR. This project will rely on a research design which combines historical and anthropological approaches in order to perform multi-sited ethnography of the DIY phenomenon in the USSR

 

Keywords: DIY, practical knowledge, skills, materiality, appropriation, auto-consumption, society and technology, amateurism, Soviet Union, post-socialism.