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 2018

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 below for exact dates and times & possible changes!

In March of 2012, two hundred opposition candidates ran for office in Moscow’s municipal election. Seventy won seats. In September of 2017, over a thousand opposition candidates ran. This time, they captured a quarter of all council seats in the city, shut out United Russia candidates in six rayons, and formed majorities in another twenty. Running in teams, on an explicitly anti-United Russia platform, opposition politicians were able to make significant inroads at a time when Vladimir Putin was reasserting his dominance over Russia’s political landscape at the federal level. These important local gains represent a shift in opposition strategy from mobilization for street protests to electioneering. With new campaign strategies and electoral technologies – the rise of “political Uber” – opposition candidates are running in and winning local elections.

This paper examines, using in-depth observational and interview data, the 2012 and 2017 municipal campaigns in Moscow. A comparative analysis of the two elections demonstrates how members of Russia’s non-systemic opposition are learning and building political capacity. Conceptually, I make the argument that the opposition is tapping into an inherent structural weakness within Russia’s modern competitive authoritarian regime by exploiting the spaces of resistance created left by the fusion of democratic institutions and authoritarian practices.

Dr. Yana Gorokhovskaia will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 16 August, 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by Professor Vladimir Gel’man.

Welcome!

From the ‘Calais Jungle’ to the ‘City Plaza’ squat in central Athens, makeshift settlements have become an integral part of refugee journeys to the EU. Such settlements are often ‘off the grid’ and receive no aid or services, except that provided informally by volunteers and activists.

This presentation examines informal refugee settlements in urban areas of transit countries, by focusing on Belgrade and Athens. This paper considers the urban and spatial politics of the refugee ‘crisis’ in transit countries; specifically, it takes a detailed look at cities hosting informal settlements and transient refugee populations, and the actors and spaces shaping refugee lives. It considers how urban spaces are used and adapted by refugees and activists to create temporary settlements and aid network, but also, how authorities employ surveillance and spatial practices aimed at regulating the presence of refugees in centrally located public spaces. In its focus on cities, the presentation also places the informal settlements into a broader context: refugee settlements make use of spaces that are already subjected to pre-existing local politics and contestations over land, regeneration and property development, and this often results in evictions or demolitions of refugee housing. The paper shows inconsistencies in how states approach informal refugee housing; for instance, on the one hand evicting squatters from private properties, but implicitly supporting refugee squats in public and city-owned buildings.

Overall, the paper argues that migration and presence of migrant bodies in public spaces is often controlled and regulated by seemingly innocuous ways, and often through spatial manipulations and use of proxies such as developers and investors. 

Dr. Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on WEDNESDAY 22nd August 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room (Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by Dr. Brendan Humphreys.

Welcome!

In today’s Russia, the role of specialized non-legal knowledge in pre-judicial and judicial proceedings is ambiguous and contradictory. It is the actors representing state bodies who possess strategic resources while the power position of forensic experts is much weaker. In the conditions of such power asymmetry representatives of state bodies, particularly investigators, often abuse their right to appoint expertise. At the same time expert reports have been used for legitimizing controversial and sometimes clearly unlawful decisions.

The presentation aims to analyze the practices of using expert knowledge in the Russian legal system from the perspective of sociology of law and on the basis of qualitative methodology. The focus will be on the peculiarities of interaction between forensic experts and jurists in court proceedings. To explore this interaction the research uses Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the juridical field and other contemporary sociological approaches. It is important to describe and conceptualize from a sociological perspective whether misuse of expert evidence by investigation bodies and courts is defined by the inner logic of the juridical field or by the pressure from the political field. Special attention will be devoted to the market of expert services and the authors of forensic expert reports. The presentation will consider the main traits and developmental trends of the field of forensic expertise in contemporary Russia. It will be analyzed how the perceptions of the judicial system by forensic experts impact their behavior in the court proceedings and what tactics they use within the juridical field.

Dr. Elena Maslovskaya will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 30th August, 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by  Dr. Anna-Liisa Heusala.

Welcome!

This seminar presents my study that explores the encounter of Orthodoxy and democracy from a new perspective. Most importantly, the focus on the interwar Russian diaspora allows a break with the traditional emphasis on the role of the state in this process. In addition, the temporal scope of this study creates an opportunity for seeing Orthodoxy and democracy not as static, but as dynamic phenomena that are subjects to change when occurring in new environments. This approach opens space for comparisons between the attitudes to democracy developed by the different Russian émigré churches between the two world wars. In this regard, special attention will be paid to the two major Russian theological centers in the interwar Europe: the well-known St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, associated with the so-called Western European Russian Exarchate, and the less studied Russian Synod Abroad, established in Sremski Karlovci (Yugoslavia) in 1921.

Although both denounced the Bolshevik regime and the persecution of religion in Russia, they ended up with different visions of democracy. Allowing an expanded participation of laymen and clergy in church affairs, the Western European Exarchate adopted some key principles of representative democracy. Meanwhile, the Synod Abroad chose to enhance the role of episcopate. Furthermore, if St Sergius Theological Institute gave preference to theological responses to the trial experienced by their country, people and church (e.g., Nicholas Afanasiev’s eucharistic theology), the émigré hierarchs in Sremski Karlovci tended to mix up religion and politics and endorsed monarchy as the most suitable mode of governance for a future Russia, liberated from the Bolshevik menace. In addition, the two émigré church centers differed in their attitudes to the religious other. While the Western European Exarchate established close contacts with Western Christianity and the ecumenical movement, the Synod Abroad adopted an isolationist stand against those who did not share their devotion to Orthodoxy.

Dr. Daniela Kalkandjieva will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 13 th September, 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by Dr. Elina Kahla

Welcome!

Dr. Wladimir Sgibnev will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 16 August, 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Dr. Anna Lowry.

Welcome!

Dr. Chunling Li will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 18 October, 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by Professor Markku Kivinen.

Welcome!
 

Dr. Birgit Beumers will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 1 November, 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by Dr. Sanna Turoma.

Welcome!

Dr. Luca Anceschi, Visiting Fellow alumnus will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 8 November, 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by Dr. Rustam Urinboyev.

Luca Anceschi lectures in Central Asian Studies at the University of Glasgow, where he also co-edits Europe-Asia Studies, the world’s leading academic journal for the study of Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Educated in Napoli and Melbourne, Luca has focused his research agenda on the politics and international relations of post-Soviet Central Asia, with particular reference to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan—the region’s key hydrocarbon producers. He is the author of Turkmenistan’s Foreign Policy: Positive Neutrality and the Consolidation of the Turkmen Regime (Routledge, 2009); his articles have appeared on Europe-Asia Studies, Nationalities Papers, the Central Asian Survey and Demokratizatsiya. In 2015, he was a Central Asia Visiting Fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute.

Welcome!

 Dr. Ekaterina Kalinina will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 15th November 2018 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by Professor Marianna Muravyeva. 

Welcome!

This presentation problematizes the changing assumptions about sexuality in Putin’s Russia. Building on cultural and media approaches it addresses the peculiarities of mainstream discursive representations of deviant sexuality in Russian state media. The paper focuses on a contradictory and complex mediation of the deviant sexuality in a primetime humour show called KVN (Klub Vesyolykh I Nakhodchivykh or The Club of the Merry and Quick-Witted), which is a quintessentially post/Soviet phenomenon with a specific tradition of humour. KVN’s particular place in the post-Soviet cultural landscape stems from its longstanding history (1961–to date) and its temporary censorship during Soviet times between 1972–1986 when some of the jokes were found offensive. In the contexts of 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ Russian legislation, which tightened the discourse on non-heteronormative sexuality, this inquiry into the ‘permissible’ discursive representations of excessive sexuality framed within a carnivalesque (Bakhtin, 1981) format of KVN is particularly timely. This presentation focuses on a number of shows (2015–2018) and argues that KVN’s ‘authorised’ mockery of deviant or excessive sexuality inadvertently leads to the mainstreaming of ‘deviant’ cultural codes and potentially destabilising the attempts to ‘normalise’ and homogenise the discourse on sexuality within an increasingly patriarchal, militaristic and populist environment.

Dr. Galina Miazhevich, Visiting Fellow Alumna will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 13th December, 2018 at 14:15 pm in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event will be chaired by  Dr. Saara Ratilainen.

Galina Miazhevich is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Journalism, Media, and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University, UK (2018–). Galina's research interests include media representations of multiculturalism; media and democracy in post-communist Europe; gender, media and emergent forms of post-Soviet identity. Galina has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and co-authored several monographs; she organised a number of international workshops and convened the Gorbachev Lectures on Press Freedom held at Christ Church, University of Oxford in 2011. Galina regularly contributes to BBC Russian service. She is an ECREA executive board member and a co-convenor of the BASEES (Digital) Media and Cultures group. Galina was a Visiting Fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland in 2017. Galina is the Principle Investigator (PI) on an AHRC Leadership Fellowship (2018–2020) exploring media representations of non-heteronormative sexuality in Russia.