Moments of Russianness : locating national identification in discourse

Brock, Maria (2015) Moments of Russianness : locating national identification in discourse. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates national identification by applying psychosocial methodology to discourses produced in Russia during the era of ‘Putinism’ (2000- ). Existing literature on post-Soviet Russia frequently claims that at the heart of the nation lies an absence of symbolic functions or subjective formations with which Russians could identify. At the same time, there has been relatively little empirical work that seeks to examine national identification using a psychosocial approach. The study fills this lacuna by looking for moments of identification across different texts, such as interviews, surveys and media representations. Using as its starting point the conditions of possibility of post-2000 Russia, the study pays attention to societal shifts and disjunctures, examining how they are reflected in discursive patterns and formations. The dissertation’s empirical element consists of two parts. Through the analysis of interviews and open-ended surveys, the first part documents respondents’ ambivalent relationship with Russia and Russianness, which is characterized by splitting and disavowal. In the second part, the study deploys a case study approach. The first case study focuses on discourses of rejection and (dis)identification as featured in the Russian public’s responses to Pussy Riot. It concludes that in their policing of Russianness and the demarcation of features deemed undesirable as embodied by the group, participants in the debate have found ways of both shifting the threat Pussy Riot represents, and also of once again ‘enjoying the nation’. The second case study examines discourses that seek to elicit identification in the populace via representational mechanisms around the figure of Vladimir Putin. It is argued that the various strategies employed to activate leader love, ranging from hypermasculinity to hyperrealism, seem to indicate a void at the heart of the Russian president’s persona and, by extension, his national project, making them profoundly unstable. Overall, the thesis provides a rare empirical contribution to the psychosocial study of national identification. It addresses the interrelation between imaginary and symbolic identification and the pivotal role of fantasmatic processes therein. The identifications I locate in the thesis are precarious and fleeting, speaking of the loss of a fantasy of national greatness, and of an internalization of images and scenes borrowed from literature and history. The study also offers a consideration of the implications of such attachments for Russian society, thus providing further illustration of the interdependence of the psychic and the social.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy > Psychosocial Studies
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 22 May 2015 11:22
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2015 11:37
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/126

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