Visiting Fellows Research Seminars

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Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar Series features the work of the outstanding scholars who have been invited to conduct their research within the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Programme. The scholars’ topics cover a wide range both geographically, and with regard to methodology, discipline, and focus. The seminars are a platform for advancing and sharing knowledge of the present, past, and future of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Eurasia, and each session has ample time for questions and discussion. All students, scholars, and other interested audiences are warmly welcome to attend!

Seminar Pro­gramme for Autumn 2019

The seminars take place on Thursdays from 14:15 to 15:45 at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki. Please check the programme updates for possible changes.

This talk offers a theory of the sources of authoritarian durability, which emphasizes the importance of mass support for ensuring nondemocratic regime survival. It argues that the most resilient autocracies in the modern world extend their lifespans not by repressing the masses but by guaranteeing universal access to jobs, by providing subsidized housing, by rolling out generous welfare benefits, and by pricing basic services, consumer goods, and staple foods below the cost of production. In these welfare dictatorships there exists an implicit understanding that the masses will reward the regime with compliance as long as their consumption preferences are satisfied. According to the terms of this social contract, citizens would be justified to rebel should the regime renege on its commitments to maintain a high level of basic consumption.

The talk argues that although they initially developed in centrally planned economies prior to 1989, welfare dictatorships have had an afterlife well past the end of the Cold War in a range of authoritarian regimes. The theory is developed through an in-depth study of the case of pre-1989 Bulgaria and is tested through a paired comparison of three centrally planned economies (the German Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union, and pre-1989 China) with the cases of post-1989 China, contemporary Russia, and Cuba. The talk is based on extensive archival research with Bulgarian, Chinese, Soviet, German, and Cuban documents, as well as interviews conducted in China, Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, and Cuba.

Professor Martin K. Dimitrov will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 22 August, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Vladimir Gel'man.

Welcome!

In the seminar I will introduce the concept of alter-geopolitics (Koopman, 2011) and consider how this might be applied as an analytical lens for exploring belonging and its contestation within everyday life in Ukraine. Since 1991, Ukraine has been the site of different geopolitical projects of belonging, which have been produced and negotiated both in popular and political discourse, as well as everyday life. Analysis of these projects has highlighted multiple layers of belonging around language, ethnicity, history and other boundaries within Ukraine, as well as discord over the geopolitical positioning of the country. However, this analysis often marginalizes alter-geopolitical projects, i.e. projects being developed in everyday life within communities, as they seek to create their own securities. I contend that whilst it is important to differentiate between belonging and the politics of belonging (Yuval-Davis, 2011), we also need to understand how these relate to ‘other places’ or ‘elsewhere’, i.e. with whom such projects align us and our interests.

I explored the impact of the shifting geopolitics of belonging during ethnographic fieldwork in a rural community in Chernivets’ka oblast 2007-9, as well as on subsequent shorter visits to L’viv and Chernivtsi from 2015-18. Some local people felt excluded from the frequently polarizing discourses underpinning the geopolitical projects pursued by politicians and in the media. During the course of everyday encounters, they often not only challenged these discourses, but also worked with other members of their communities to create their own alter-geopolitical understandings, which were inclusive of their positionings and consequently created a greater sense of security.

Associate Professor Kathryn Cassidy will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 5 September, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Assistant Professor Katri Pynnöniemi.

Welcome!

Dr. Marina Yusupova will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 12 September, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Dr. Alexander Kondakov.

Welcome!

Informality and shadow transactions have been acknowledged as a main component of a large amount of companies operating in post-socialist spaces (Polese 2014; Putnins and Sauka 2015; Schneider 2013; Williams 2016). Little is known, however, on the reasons why companies prefer to remain in the shadow; the relationship between informality, informal practices and performance.

The main goal of this paper is to present the results of the SHADOW survey (Marie Curie RISE project – 2018 – 2022) conducted in five countries of the former USSR (between January and March 2019): Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan).

We scale up the Baltic Managers Survey used to calculate the shadow economy index in the Baltics (Putnis and Sauka 2015) to three post-Soviet regions to explore: 1) the correlation between the institutional (and macro-economic) environment and the likelihood of a company to engage in informal transactions; 2) the main alleged motivations by company managers to justify this behaviour. In turn, this will allow us to engage with the theorization of informal practices in a cross-country and cross-regional perspective and how they can be interpreted and taken advantage of in public policy perspective

Dr. Abel Polese will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 17 October, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Dr. Anna-Liisa Heusala.

Welcome!

Since the collapse of communism, the post-socialist city has been studied by scholars in human geography and related disciplines. The initial "city in transition" frame gradually gave way to "city after transition" - indicating the end of the process, albeit offering no consensus over its outcomes. The apparent stalemate in theorising the post-socialist city, for instance by exploring the topic of spatiality of authoritarianism. The revival of authoritarianism has not been reflected upon from the urban or broader spatial perspectives. This paper argues current research on post-socialist city relies on the critique of the capitalist city, assuming that capitalism has asserted itself in the post-soviet world. In reality, there is a variety of outcomes. This paper suggests that research on post-socialist cities should revive the transition perspective and engage with all elements of transition (namely democratisation, marketization, and institutional development) in order to appreciate various outcomes of transition and the role of cities in it.

Dr. Nadir Kinossian will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 7 November, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki).

Welcome!

Dr. Catherine Owen will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 21 November, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Dr. Marina Khmelnitskaya.