Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Roosa Rytkönen (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)

"We Help Students and Get Money for it": Shadow Economic Services in Russian Higher Education through Anthropological Theories of Value

The paper examines shadow services in Russian higher education system through anthropological theories of value. It is based on fieldwork carried out in Kazan in the spring of 2015 for a Master’s thesis on the topic of buying coursework and dissertations, and focuses on qualitative interviews with three university graduates who earn an extra income by writing academic work for others. Engaging with anthropological theories of value, and related discussions in anthropology of ethics, the paper addresses the incommensurabilities informants face in a situation where informal practices are prevalent and the opportunity for earning an extra income from them is readily available – contrary to monetarily devalued academic work. The paper shows that while ‘avtors’ portray their activity as problematic and arising out of problems in the higher education system, they also draw from positive valued discourses including that of ‘help’, aspiring and self-sustainability. The post-Soviet institutional transformations in higher education, labelled by some authors as ‘massification’ and ‘commercialisation’, resulted in elements of commodification in the higher education system, qualitative changes in the practices inherited from the Soviet era. The paper places such developments in relation to wider material and discursive transformations concerning value. Through engaging with theoretical developments concerning the relationship between value and action, the paper addresses the way different kind of action can be realized in some socially recognizable form. The paper aims to capture the multiple, and often contradictory, discourses on valuable action and the rewards they imply, showing how informants manage this multiplicity.