Research

I will add links and short abstracts for research publications as I go along. Most of my academic research appears here first: academia.edu [personal site of research papers] or here: researchgate . Some of the papers on these websites are not the final versions, for copyright reasons. You can always email me to request the latest version.

An agenda for research on work and class in the postsocialist world

Jeremy Morris

Sociology Compass link

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Abstract
This article reviews the scholarly treatment of work and class in
postsocialist states. It traces how class discourses under socialism
led to a lack of meaningful working class studies in the postsocialist
academy. It offers as an agenda for future research three points of
departure: (a) greater confrontation of the one‐sided discourse on
class in these societies and the academy itself (class blindness of
research). (b) The value in studying postsocialist societies both
comparatively to global North and South, and as an intermediate
positioning for worker exploitation and responses in global
capitalism. (c) To achieve the first 2 agenda items, a more grounded
methodological approach proceeding from the lived experience of
class and work is proposed.
Current research on social networks, memory studies and
personhood, the informal economy, deindustrialization, and the
“domestication” of neoliberalism show that empirically grounded
work on postsocialist working classes can make important contributions
to wider social science debates. Studying the “losers” of
postcommunist transition can tell us much about populist politics,
the rise of the global working class outside the global North and
the nature of global capitalist exploitation more generally. In
addition, this agenda serves as an important point of departure from
the dominant middle class focus of research in postsocialism.

Citation:

Morris J. An agenda for research on work and class in the postsocialist world. Sociology Compass. 2017;11:e12476. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12476.


Looking at the ‘sharing’ economies concept through the prism of informality

Oxford Academic link

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Abstract

How do the ‘sharing economies’ relate to the long history of informal economic practices as understood in the social sciences? This article examines conceptions of the sharing economy in terms of its relation to scholarship on informality. By using two case studies of informal economic practices that originated in socialist-era societies and continue to the present day in modified forms, we critique the notion that sharing economies are significantly novel in form or logic, other than technologically. We draw attention to the variety of informal economy practices to discuss how they may be socially embedded or disembedded. The main focus on global technological leveraging of productivity and connectivity in sharing economy practices would suggest that many aspects are akin to disembedded forms of informality. Scholarship needs to address the ongoing disciplinary parallelism on prefixed ‘economies’—in doing so it would provide a better contextual and theoretical understanding of ‘sharing economies’.Keywords: sharing economy, informality, embeddedness, post-socialism

Citation:

Borbála Kovács, Jeremy Morris, Abel Polese, Drini Imami; Looking at the ‘sharing’ economies concept through the prism of informality. Cambridge J Regions Econ Soc 2017 rsw046. doi: 10.1093/cjres/rsw046


Not Soft Power, But Speaking Softly: ‘Everyday Diplomacy’ in Field Relations during the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Berghahn journals link 

The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

Abstract

Based on long-term fieldwork in Russia, but focusing mainly on the aftermath of the 2014 Malaysian airliner downing in Ukraine, this article examines the individual ethnographer and informants alike as unwilling ‘diplomatic’ representatives in the field. Firstly, I discuss the authoritarian political context in Russia and how it affects the notion of ‘soft power’ and ‘public’ discourse. Then I relate the familiar ‘political testing’ experience of researchers by informants, and ‘neutrality’ in field relations (Ergun and Erdemir 2010). Next, I draw on the anthropology of indirect communication to characterize ‘everyday diplomacy’ after the event as a particular kind of civility. I go on to examine attendant affective states of ‘tension, disturbance, or jarring’ (Navaro-Yashin 2012) that both threaten civility and enable it. Finally, I argue that classic ethnographic rapport-building deserves further examination in the light of the porosity of politics, the social environment and the field.

Citation:

Morris, J. (2016). Not Soft Power, But Speaking Softly: ‘Everyday Diplomacy’ in Field Relations during the Russia-Ukraine Conflict, The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, 34(2).


Everyday Post-Socialism

Working-Class Communities in the Russian Margins

Palgrave (Springer) publisher link

 

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publisher blurb:

Offering a rich ethnographic account of blue-collar workers’ everyday life in a central Russian industrial town coping with simultaneous decline and the arrival of transnational corporations,Everyday Post-Socialism demonstrates how people manage to remain satisfied, despite the crisis and relative poverty they faced after the fall of socialist projects and the social trends associated with neoliberal transformation. Morris shows the ‘other life’ in today’s Russia which is not present in mainstream academic discourse or even in the media in Russia itself. This book offers co-presence and a direct understanding of how the local community lives a life which is not only bearable, but also preferable and attractive when framed in the categories of ‘habitability’, commitment and engagement, and seen in the light of alternative ideas of worth and specific values. Topics covered include working-class identity, informal economy, gender relations and transnational corporations.


Notes on the “Worthless Dowry” of Soviet Industrial Modernity: Making Working-Class Russia Habitable

Journal article online (open access)

Abstract: Despite a narrative of deindustrialization, monotowns and former industrial settlements are numerous in today’s Russia, and are significant not only in terms of the territory they occupy and the population they host but also because of the particular economic and cultural practices, logics of community building, and particular types of “connectedness” and horizontal networks that make these places special and habitable for their “dwellers.” This article offers an ethnographic account of the daily lives of blue-collar workers in a former industrial town in central Russia. Based on extensive fieldwork, the article demonstrates how people live their lives and manage to remain “satisfied” with what they have despite the crisis and relative poverty they faced after the fall of the socialist project, losing the town forming enterprise, and the social trends associated with neoliberal transformation. The article presents a case study that shows the “other life” in today’s Russia, which is not at all present in mainstream academic discourse. In English, extended summary in Russian.

Citation:

Morris, J. (2015). Notes on the “Worthless Dowry” of Soviet Industrial Modernity: Making Working-Class Russia Habitable. Laboratorium: Russian Review Of Social Research, 7(3), 25–48. Retrieved from http://www.soclabo.org/index.php/laboratorium/article/view/486


The Warm Home of Cacti and Other Soviet Memories: Russian Workers Reflect on the Socialist Period

Article Journal online

Academia preprint version

Citation:

Jeremy Morris . “The Warm Home of Cacti and Other Soviet Memories: Russian Workers Reflect on the Socialist Period.” Central Europe2014; 12(1), 16-31.

DOI: 10.1179/1479096314Z.00000000020

Keywords: working-class culture, memory, Soviet Union, Russia, ethnography, lay normativity

This article examines ‘lay’ memory and understandings of the Soviet Union within a working-class community in regional Russia. Based on ethnographi­c fieldwork and materials, it presents informants’ narratives on the past as seen through the division of lived experience into the present and the ‘time before’ 1991. Positive associations of the past refer to the benefits of the social wage under socialism, the loss of which is keenly felt even while paternalistic relations continue to be expected by workers from enterprises. Shared class-based memory is a resource articulating a ‘lay’ reasoning on the supposed superiority of the socialist social contract, rather than any articulation of political support for the Soviet system. What endures is a clearly articulated, morally normative understanding of social justice, mythical in the past and absent in the present.

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