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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.

Between 2009 and 2013, the journal was published with the financial support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The journal is now supported by the Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Current Issue

Thematic Block

Everyday Life Perspectives on Work, Home, and “the Soviet” from Estonia to Kyrgyzstan

Laura L. Adams, Gulnara Aitpaeva

The articles in this special section are the result of a three-year (2010–2013) teaching enhancement project “The Soviet in Everyday Life Past and Present,” funded by a Regional Seminar for Excellence in Teaching grant from the Open Society Foundation’s Higher Education Support Program. The project proposal was written by a group of social scientists from Kyrgyzstan and the United States (Laura Adams, Gulnara Aitpaeva, Serguei Oushakine, and John Schoberlein) who had been working in Soviet and post-Soviet space for decades and who were concerned about particular trends in higher education throughout the post-Soviet world.

“Working for Yourself”: Resource Theft at a Factory in the Late Soviet Era

Olga Smolyak

This article focuses on the practice of “working for yourself” (rabota na sebia), which was common in the Soviet Union in the 1970s–1980s and entailed manufacturing and repairing household items during work hours, using factory resources. The theoretical approach is based on Michel de Certeau’s theory of everyday practices as anonymous creativity and on Igor Kopytoff’s concept of the cultural biography of things—the displacement of objects in social space and the resultant shift in their cultural meanings. The author examines the creation and function of handmade objects, paying particular attention to their movement between the domestic sphere (private realm) and the enterprise (public realm).

Disembedding the Company from Kinship: Unethical Families and Atomized Labor in an Estonian Mine

Eeva Kesküla

This article looks at the dynamics of the relationship between the company and the family in an Estonian mining town. In the Soviet period, the “double movement” of the second wave of marketization ensured that the family continued to be embedded in the workplace. The mining company served as a total social institution for miners and their families, a center of their economic and emotional life. The current third wave of marketization, together with a particular corporate ethic, is creating a separation of the family and the workplace. This is expressed in the gradual withdrawal of the company from the reproductive sphere of miners’ families and the transformation of moralities related to work and kinship.

After the Worker State: Competing and Converging Frames of Valuing Labor in Rural Kyrgyzstan

Jeanne Féaux de la Croix

This article examines competing and converging discourses on the value of labor in rural Kyrgyzstan. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2006 and 2010, the author uses case studies of a woman pastoralist, an agricultural entrepreneur, and a Muslim cleric to demonstrate the competing frames of valuation that current work practices are oriented towards. The author shows how these frames of valuation are situated in the complex history of work in postsocialist Central Asia. The article demonstrates that formally distinct and conflicting ideologies such as socialist and capitalist ideas of labor, concepts of service to kin, and Islamic practice all converge in their emphasis on the moral value of hard work.



“Kept Things”: Heterotopic Provocations in the Museal Representation of East German Everyday Life

Anne Winkler

This article undertakes a reciprocally informed analysis of Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia and the temporary exhibition Aufgehobene Dinge: Ein Frauenleben in Ost-Berlin (Kept Things: A Woman’s Life in East Berlin), on display in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany, from March 28, 2010, until May 5, 2011. The exhibition emerges as site and practice that questions fundamentally how other contemporary museums represent East German everyday life. At the same time, Kept Things renders visible the mechanisms by which museums construct knowledge. The foundation for this article consists in an interrogation of the concept of heterotopia that emphasizes its methodological possibilities and capacity to reveal knowledge.