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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

From Constructivism to “Routinized Modernism”: The Zigzag Trajectory of Radical Utopianism in Postwar Central Europe

Virág Molnár

This article uses the example of constructivist architecture to show how radical utopianism influenced postwar plans for the large-scale transformation of the built environment in a significant but highly fragmentary fashion. Rather than dominating a longer period and slowly fading away, constructivism recurred in Hungary in several short but intensive episodes. The analysis focuses on two crucial episodes—plans for the post-1945 reconstruction of Budapest and the construction of a “strip house,” a massive collective housing superblock— to show how constructivism came to be coupled with various social and political agendas that often caused its demise; yet it left a complex and lasting legacy even when it failed. The article also argues that the zigzag trajectory of postwar constructivist architecture is largely a function of Hungary’s interstitial geopolitical and cultural position between East and West. As a result, Hungary, together with other Central European countries, offers an example that can illuminate the nonlinear ways in which intellectual ideas and cultural models circulate on regional and global scales.

Talking with the Consumer: Consumer Issues on Soviet Television

Kirsten Bönker

This article explores how Soviet television engaged in “authoritative discourse” and brought it to the screen. It asks how television helped to shape the Soviet consumer by negotiating consumer issues and generating previously unheard-of publicity. Focusing on Rostov, Leningrad, and Moscow Central Television, it explores how these TV stations were a site of communication between viewers, letter writers, staff, factories, retail services, and party and state institutions responsible for consumer issues. It shows that television played a significant part in normalizing consumer issues by entangling home, consumption, and leisure in a public and private continuum staged on screen. Reproducing the genre of consumer advice and information, it interlaced authoritative discourse with tangible questions of lifestyle and consumer taste, with personal experiences and local events in a more interactive—perhaps even intrusive—way compared to print media and radio. Thus, we observe that the space opened by televisual reproductions of authoritative discourse established emotional bonds between Soviet citizens and Soviet material and media culture.

Attachment Theory in Action: Psychological Theories of Mother-Child Bonding in Postsocialist Czech Republic

Victoria Schmidt

Attachment theory has been subject to sustained critique by radical psychologists and feminists. The critical stance towards attachment theory among Western experts is a matter of long-term analytical practices; neither the work of John Bowlby nor the popular socialist version of attachment theory by the Czech psychologists Zdeněk Matějček and Josef Langmeier has been the subject of such revision. Attachment theory still provides the key arguments in favor of deinstitutionalization and developing family placement in postsocialist countries. This obvious idealization of attachment theory by Czech psychologists limits access to the Western critical tradition and blocks the deconstruction of Matějček and Langmeier. This essay attempts to overcome these limitations. A review of critiques of John Bowlby’s theory and his adherents is juxtaposed with a reconstruction of the history of attachment theory in socialist Czechoslovakia. In the first part, the essay embeds Western arguments within the concept of epistemic injustice as developed by Miranda Fricker. In line with the principle of historicization, the next part explores the combination of forces that drove the formation of attachment theory in Czechoslovakia. The final part investigates contemporary attempts to apply attachment theory to the issue of forced removal of Roma children from their families and examines the options for preventing this practice and the placement of Roma children into residential care settings.

Crisis of the Genre: Book Reviews in Studies of Scholarly Communication

Boris Stepanov

Book reviews remain one of the main tools of research evaluation. But the status of the genre and its role in the system of scholarly communication have been often put under the question by both professionals in different disciplines and specialists in science studies. In this essay we address these discussions in the context of the cultural history of the humanities. This examination reveals that what are often considered symptoms of the crisis and decay of the genre can be understood as manifestations of the tension between subjectivity and scholarly standards. Awareness of these controversies stimulates researchers, on the one hand, to focus on the communicative nature of scholarship and, on the other hand, to take into account the evolution of the system of scholarly communication.

Focus Group Methods and Role-Playing Games: Potential and limitations for Socially Sensitive Research

Artur Holavin

The text discusses existing limits to the use of focus group methods, especially when it comes to sensitive research topics. Based on my experience of participation in an international research project on sexual bullying, I point out the issues of distrust, conformism promoting group dynamics, and the limits of post hoc “rationalized” discourses among focus group subjects. Drawing upon my experience of nonformal educational “learning by doing” projects, I propose the use of role-playing and simulation elements as supplementary methods to tackle the above-mentioned issues. In conclusion, I summarize possible methodological advantages of the use of role-play elements in qualitative sociological research, as well as some possible epistemological limits of the method.