Longing for the Kollektiv: Gender, Power, and Residential Schools in Central Siberia

Abstract

Interpretations of post-Soviet subjectivities have tended to emphasize the ways in which subjects experience these with a sense of liberation from a monolithic socialist state; however, local responses to post-Soviet forms of power have varied widely. In the case of indigenous Siberians in the 1990s, an older generation of Evenk women expressed positive feelings about their experience as students in the Soviet-era residential schools that continue to shape their subjectivity in the post-Soviet present. Evenk subjectivities, as with those of other indigenous Siberians, have been significantly formed through the institution of the residential school and, by extension, through a range of interactions with state power as it has been locally remade and interpreted in the 1990s. In this article, I explore the widespread nostalgia associated with the residential school. Drawing on the narratives of elderly Evenk women, I argue that such expressions of Evenk nostalgia for the socialist era are a form of critique of the neoliberal logics emerging in Russia today. In this respect, Evenk women's accounts allow us to explore negotiations of power in a post-Soviet era and to examine how ideologies shape conceptions of self and the social order more broadly.

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