Alexey GolubevOct 20, 2020
The Things of Life
Materiality in Late Soviet Russia
Cornell University Press 2020
The Things of Life: Materiality in Late Soviet Russia (Cornell UP, 2020) is a social and cultural history of material objects and spaces during the late socialist era. It traces the biographies of Soviet things, examining how the material world of the late Soviet period influenced Soviet people's gender roles, habitual choices, social trajectories, and imaginary aspirations. Instead of seeing political structures and discursive frameworks as the only mechanisms for shaping Soviet citizens, Alexey Golubev explores how Soviet people used objects and spaces to substantiate their individual and collective selves. In doing so, Golubev rediscovers what helped Soviet citizens make sense of their selves and the world around them, ranging from space rockets and model aircraft to heritage buildings, and from home gyms to the hallways and basements of post-Stalinist housing. Through these various materialist fascinations, The Things of Life considers the ways in which many Soviet people subverted the efforts of the Communist regime to transform them into a rationally organized, disciplined, and easily controllable community.
Golubev argues that late Soviet materiality had an immense impact on the organization of the Soviet historical and spatial imagination. His approach also makes clear the ways in which the Soviet self was an integral part of the global experience of modernity rather than simply an outcome of Communist propaganda. Through its focus on materiality and personhood, The Things of Life expands our understanding of what made Soviet people and society "Soviet."
Alexey Golubev is a scholar of Russian history with a focus on social and cultural history of the twentieth century. He has a Cand.Sc. (kandidatskaya) degree from the Petrozavodsk University (2006) and a Ph.D. degree from the University of British Columbia (2016). Since 2017 he has worked as an Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Houston.
Steven Seegel is Professor of History at University of Northern Colorado.