Social Security and Care Provision among Indigenous Women in Russia: Family Ties or Compliance with the State?

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) Gamla Torget 6, 3rd floor, room 3576
  • Lecturer: Vladislava Vladimirova is a researcher at IRES. Dr. Vladimirova has worked on diverse topics that pertain to the intersection between economy, ethnicity, centralized and regional governance, human relations to the natural environment, cosmology and morality in the subarctic regions of Europe and Asia. She has extensively investigated issues of governance and use of natural resources in relation to indigenous people.
  • Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)
  • Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
  • Phone: 018 471 1630
  • Seminarium

with Vladislava Vladimirova (IRES)

This presentation builds on the latest anthropological discussions of social security and care in the study of postsocialist societies. Social security is understood both as formal institutional provision at state level, as well as cultural institutions, individuals, groups, and organizations employed to overcome insecurities. The paper focuses on care, whose locus is seen within institutionalized settings of social belonging of different order, for example kinship, smaller community, or national state organizations. Care, thus, can be thought of as a ‘social practice that connects not only kinsmen and friends, neighbors and communities, but also other collectivities such as states and nations’ (Thelen, 2015, p. 2). The field of care drawn in this way can bring together the study of social order on different scales, for example those of state institutions and kinship relations. Thus kinship and state policies can be seen as entangled fields to a bigger extent that can mutually influence each other. Within this theoretical context, I discuss two strategies of indigenous women in Nenets Autonomous Region, Russia. In one case I describe the life history of an elderly woman who after the loss of her husband resorted to a traditional solution: she moved in with her children to join the household of the deceased husband’s younger brothers, who were employed as reindeer herders and lived predominantly in the tundra. In the second case, younger nomad Nenets women leave their babies for the first months of life in state institutions (orphanages). Such strategies enable young women to preserve a high birth-rate while tackling the challenges of continuing tundra-based subsistence economy in the present. Even though these choices have been located in the complex landscape marked by the dichotomy tradition-modernity, which is central to existing ethnographies, this paper attempts to take the analysis further. My overall ambition is to contribute to the study of the complexity of the mutual interconnectedness between bonds, relations and affective landscapes on different levels – from mother-children bonds, to the nuclear family to community and state institutions.

(Thelen, T. (2015). Care as social organization: Creating, maintaining and dissolving significant  relations. Anthropological Theory, 15(4), 497-515)