“This Is Utopia; This Is a Swamp”: Genres of Narrative about a City

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Varvara Kobyshcha


Any researcher who works with local people in a small town soon finds a number of repeating topics, stories, symbols, characters, and attitudes. Together they create a generalized image that, to a greater or lesser degree, is shared by its inhabitants. In order to move beyond merely recording different forms of self-description and to use these data as instruments of explanation and comparative analysis, the author proposes a model for the genre analysis of such “local” narratives. This allows us to a) reveal links between the past (cultural memory), present (image), and future (expectations and scenarios) of a city; b) explain the cultural preconditions of observed collective and individual actions; and c) explain the specificity of the affective connection between citizens and their city. In the second part of the paper the author demonstrates some results of the application of this model, using two case studies: Myshkin (visited in 2013) and Kologriv (visited in 2010). The narratives of local inhabitants are structured according to the genres of ”progress” (development) and ”regress” (decay). The author is especially interested in how these genres constitute peculiar types of agency, as well as a repertoire of (im)possible actions. In Russian.


Town Communities, Genre, Narrative, City Images, Development, Decay

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