Dispersed Dispossession. Transformation and Loss in Rural Russia

Authors: Alexander Vorbrugg*, University of Bern
Topics: Economic Geography, Russia, Rural Geography
Keywords: dispossession, Russia, rural transformation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

My paper draws on long-term fieldwork in post-Soviet rural Russia. I show how the forms of loss which rural dwellers experience and described in this context do not match most of the established approaches to rural dispossession which focus on the separation from farmland, the antagonism between agricultural companies and peasant smallholders, and eventful ‘grabs’. Dispossession is still an adequate concept to apply here, but it has to be adapted to the often silent, slow and unspectacular ways in which processes of disconnection, disintegration and devaluation unfold in this context. I suggest an analytical scheme that differentiates between the objects, modes and temporalities of dispossession, and allows to describe the resulting condition of ‘being dispossessed’ as a contingent conjuncture. For the empirical case at question, I conceptualize this conjuncture as dispersed dispossession: Rural dwellers in Russia face the breakdown of state supports, the devaluation of the agricultural sector, and the deterioration of infrastructures and institutions that result in poverty, foreclosed livelihood options, and limited agency towards the reformatting occurring around them. Dispossession does not constitute an event here but is rather part of an already deteriorated condition. More generally, I argue for the need to turn dispossession itself from a given into a problem that deserves careful empirical study and conceptualization.

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