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Image of a Secretary: A Metapragmatic Morality for Post-Soviet Capitalism

From: Anthropological Quarterly
Volume 86, Number 3, Summer 2013
pp. 725-758 | 10.1353/anq.2013.0036



A prominent post-Soviet discourse on imidzh (image) advocates close attention to self-presentation as a means of reaching personal goals. Based on fieldwork in a St. Petersburg secretarial school, this article describes how discussions of secretarial imidzh countered anxieties about Russia’s “wild” version of neoliberal capitalism with a gendered morality that valorized “civilized” styles of market interaction. Rather than equating morality and resistance, I argue that people often work to endow capitalist practices with moral grounding. In particular, metapragmatic language about appropriate self-presentation and interaction styles is a key site for constituting moral relationships to capitalism.