Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Missing a Turn: Culturalized Discourses of Theory in Russia

Dr. Sergey Erofeev


Project themes: ‘culturalization’ of social analyses and the sociology of culture, levels of cultural discourse, reintegration of Russia and its cultural discourses into the international tradition.

Various references to ‘culture’ and ‘the cultural’ have always been essential for the development of social sciences from classical sociology to neo-institutionalism in economics. Recent developments demonstrate still growing importance of the ways we think of culture, both on the specialized discursive level of social sciences and on that of the general public and the media. Even quite a while after the ‘cultural turn’ one can talk about further ‘culturalization’ of the social analyses as studies of the practices of knowing, interpreting, structuring and reproducing the social world. At the same time, due to their long isolation from the international academia, Russian social sciences and cultural studies have never experienced this turn. Thanks to the current ‘culturalization’ process in the international academia, it is now becoming a pressing need to reassess the old and to articulate some new prerequisites for Russian scholarship to reintegrate with that of the “West”. This, in turn, creates an opportunity to explore how the specifically Russian perspective of not having experienced a “cultural turn” can be used to reflect on “Western” conceptions of culture in social analysis.

The main objective of my project is to delineate the prospects of the international academic reintegration of the country. In order to achieve it, I will present and analyze two cultural-discursive levels which coexist in Russia with the third level of popular cultural notions. First, I will characterize the content and the dynamics of the specialized cultural discourse of sociology and social sciences. This will also involve the analysis of the place and the role of “culturology” (kul’turologiya) introduced by the Russian government as the Soviet Union collapsed. I will go on to demonstrate in what ways these intellectual and discursive developments can be introduced to the international academic community as a reflective instance of “Western” discussions of culture further leading to a “double reflexivity” of the study of “culturalization” of social analyses.

Secondly, I will analyze the theorized cultural discourse in Russia beyond the sphere of social sciences and humanities. This discourse involves more abstract notions of culture and “the cultural” specific for the Russian media, general educators, artists, governmental and non-governmental policy-makers and other “cultural producers”. The data for this analysis will be drawn from various media texts representing the dominant and less dominant uses of the key terminology. To measure and evaluate these uses, I will address both the reflections of the cultural producers on the popular uses of culture and their typical borrowings from the realm of the specialized discourse.