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The Emotional Lives of Moscow Things

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Richard Hellie's The Economy and Material Culture of Russia richly connects political events, objects, and prices to explore problems of supply, distribution, and quality and to connect those problems to social issues. Recent ethnography in the region has further exposed the complicated ways that capitalism, socialism, and post-socialism have been compared in terms of the quality of their respective goods, especially through the symbolism of branding. This paper works through one case in which Russians (students of theater) depicted objects in ways that differed strikingly from how most people were consuming and exchanging them. Rather than focusing on quality, they endowed things with gendered and conflict-ordered emotional lives in ways that were both anchored to a history of aesthetic techniques and that also reflected more recent worries about events, and about institutional and infrastructural breakdowns and ruptures.


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