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Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research

Laboratorium is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal produced by an international group of scholars. The bilingual journal, which comes out three times a year, publishes materials based on empirical social research in Russian and English languages.

The journal is published with the financial support of the Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR), an independent nonprofit organization.*


Current Issue

Thematic Block

Street Art and the City

Natalia Samutina, Oksana Zaporozhets

This issue of Laboratorium features a special section dedicated to street art or, more broadly, to vernacular images in the contemporary urban environment. The idea first occurred to the editors during their collaboration in the “Street Art in Contemporary Society” research group at the National Research University–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, in 2013. It took shape at a conference organized by the International Visual Sociology Association, “The Public Image” (held at Goldsmiths, University of London, July 8–9, 2013), where Natalia Samutina and Oksana Zaporozhets chaired a panel “Street Art, the City, and the Public: Changing the Urban Vision.”

“If These Walls Could Talk”: Street Art and Urban Belonging in the Athens of Crisis

Myrto Tsilimpounidi

Political street art and slogans appear as visual markers of the shifting, complex discourses of power struggles, marginality, and countercultures that establish a new reality which must be seen and heard. As an art form, it is largely connected to and inspired by the existing social conditions. In the era of crisis, the central Athens of bygone years is now a terrain of conflict and metamorphosis, and the city’s walls are screaming a thousand stories. In other words, city walls are the canvas, and social conditions are the paint in a gallery of untold stories.

Berlin, the City of Saturated Walls

Natalia Samutina, Oksana Zaporozhets

“Saturation” is the term suggested by the authors to describe the present state of the visual environment of Berlin, the city that acquired a reputation as the European capital of street art. Saturation is a consequence of the gradual infiltration of graffiti and street art into everyday life and the visual environment of Berlin, and their acceptance by city residents. Berliners’ fondness for street imagery is enhanced by the experience and memory of the independent reappropriation and rearrangement of urban space the city underwent after unification. The memory of the Berlin Wall plays a significant role in sustaining Berlin graffiti and street art cultures.

This Is How We Roll: The Status Economy of Bus Portraiture in the Black Urban Periphery

Jordanna Matlon

The absence of formal employment opportunities in African cities leaves many men unable to achieve an idealized, modern wage-earning masculinity, such that socially they remain boys. They may contest their denigrated status by investing in practices that supplant this dominant narrative of masculinity. Specifically, images of iconic black men invoke an experience of modernity-as-alterity, shared across the global black diaspora. As men assert their common blackness through visual expression, they fuel lucrative economies. In this transatlantic interplay, the urban periphery transforms supralocal cultural references into material practices that buttress local identities. This article introduces the concept of status economies to examine the politics of representation and to track the dollars and dreams on Africa’s urban periphery.


“Life According to Doctor Komarovskii”: How Advice on Caring for Children Constructs Parenting

Olena Strelnyk

The article analyzes constructions of parenthood and childcare in childcare advice—disseminated through books, TV broadcasts, and websites—by popular Ukrainian pediatrician Evgenii Komarovskii. The article consists of three parts. The article draws on work in the sociology of parenting, exploring the role of expert knowledge in its construction.

When Context Means Everything: Practices and Meanings of Pin Exchanges at the Sochi Olympics

Anton Kazun

This article examines the practice of swapping Olympic pins among participants, staff, and guests of the 2014 Olympic Games. The study is based on data obtained through participant observation by the author during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The observed phenomenon is unique because of its short-term nature, the closeness and high emotional pitch of the context in which it occurs, and the involvement of representatives of many different cultures. The author concludes that the practice of pin exchange consists of several distinct forms that hold different meaning for participants.

The Sociological Expedition as Research Practice and a Form of Hands-On Fieldwork Training. Discussion

Editorial note

The concept of the “sociological expedition” implies various forms of collaborative empirical research, for which ethnographic fieldwork serves as the fundamental model. While this form of training students (“education through research”) is still relatively rare in Russia, in recent years its visibility has grown and its organizers have become more experienced. We were interested in finding out how, in each particular case, the idea of organizing such training retreats for students developed.