Empowering Women in Russia
Activism, Aid, and NGOs
Publication Year: 2007
Julie Hemment's engrossing study traces the development encounter through interactions between international foundations and Russian women's groups during a decade of national collapse. Prohibited from organizing independently under state socialism, women's groups became a focus of attention in the mid-1990s for foundations eager to promote participatory democracy, but the version of civil society that has emerged (the "third sector") is far from what Russian activists envisioned and what donor agencies promised. Drawing on ethnographic methods and Participatory Action Research, Hemment tells the story of her introduction to and growing collaboration with members of the group Zhenskii Svet (Women's Light) in the provincial city of Tver'.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: New Anthropologies of Europe
Valentina, Oktiabrina, Lena, and Lydia,1 four members of the women’s group Zhenskii Svet (Women’s Light) sat in my rented apartment, armed with flip charts and marker pens. At my request, the women had formed pairs and sat on the small sofa beds at opposite ends of the tiny one-room apartment, debating eagerly. ...
I would like to begin by expressing my deep gratitude and affection for two people without whom this project could never have taken place—Valentina Uspenskaia and Oktiabrina Cheremovskaia. Thanks too to Lena Gauveling, Lydia Zalesskaia, Anya Borodina, Natalia Mamchenkova, Lydia Gadzhieva, and other participants of Zhenskii Svet ...
Introduction: Gendered Interventions
In late May 1998, I traveled to St. Petersburg to attend a conference with two of my women activist friends—Valentina, history professor and founder of the women’s group Zhenskii Svet (Women’s Light), and Natalia, one of the newer members of the group, an engineer in her early fifties who’d recently been laid off. ...
1. Muddying the Waters: Participatory Action Research in Tver’
What do foxes, little boys, and taming have to do with the topic of feminism in Russia? That was precisely my thought when Valentina, founder of Zhenskii Svet (Women’s Light) quoted from The Little Prince during a talk we gave about our work to the Cornell University PAR Network in 1999.1 ...
2. Querying Democratization: Civil Society, International Aid, and the Riddle of the Third Sector
Nineteen ninety-seven was a peculiar year to be in Russia. It was the height of the short-lived boom period, and the year before the bubble burst in the devastating economic crisis of August 1998 that caused foreign investors to flee in droves. Since the early 1990s foreign capital had flooded into Russia, the new frontier of capitalist expansion. ...
3. Gender Mainstreaming and the Third-Sectorization of Russian Women’s Activism
Before I moved to Tver’ in September 1997, I spent two months in Moscow, renewing my acquaintance with women activists I first met in 1995 when I began the project of mapping Russian women’s NGOs. This gave me the opportunity to explore the effects of third-sector grants and funding on the women’s movement. ...
4. Global Civil Society and the Local Costs of Belonging: Setting up a Crisis Center in Tver’
By early April, contrary to the Fox’s advice, I was quite impatient. Nine months into my fieldwork in Tver’, I was frustrated that I’d not done anything participatory. Chastened by the unsatisfying experience of writing the UNIFEM grant, I felt that my collaborative intent had failed. On the other hand, other aspects of my fieldwork were going swimmingly. ...
5. A Tale of Two Projects
Once again, I find myself at odds with the fox’s predictions; at this stage in our relationship, taming proved to have a much more complicated dynamic, and we experienced only intermittent sunshine. If, in the preceding chapter, structure seemed to be something we could dance through, here our collaboration took on a quite different momentum. ...
The unraveling of the Cold War gave rise to ambitious new projects for global renewal. In the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union’s dramatic collapse in 1991, idealism and optimism about the potential for global harmony were broadly shared by populations both inside and outside the former Eastern Bloc. ...
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