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Dean of the College and Anthropology Program present

Affective Afterlives

Social Vulnerability and the Psychologist in Russia's Vice of Modernization

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Candidate for the Tenure-Track Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology
Tomas Matza
Duke University

will give a talk

Affective Afterlives: Social Vulnerability and the Psychologist in Russia’s Vice of Modernization

Since the 1990s, psychological trainers, coaches, and psychotherapists have spread throughout the Russian body politic. By jettisoning the “New Soviet Person” for a “feeling subject,” psychologists have placed individuality at the center of social concern. This shift is evident in the way that psychologists are reshaping parenting, education, mass media programming, consumption and human resourcing by attuning such practices to emotional wellbeing. Following suit, the Russian state has also oriented its interest in modernization toward the production of particular kinds of entrepreneurial citizen-subjects. What are the social and affective consequences of this inward turn? In my talk, I focus in on one community of psychological experts—those working in the public school system—in order to trace in greater detail some of the “affective afterlives” of the psychology boom in Russia. There, a beleaguered and little army of psychologists encounters some of Russia’s those precarious citizens excluded from the postsocialist recovery. I discuss the ways that bureaucratic disconnect, the federal fantasy of modernization, and neoliberal-type audit mechanisms collude to turn the state’s interest in “releasing human potential” into a winnowed down game of crisis management. I use these unplanned outcomes as a way to reflect on the interplay between government, expertise, subjectivity and social difference in times of transformation.

Bio: Tomas Matza is currently an ACLS New Faculty Fellow jointly hosted by Duke's Departments of Cultural Anthropology and Slavic and Eurasian Studies. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford's Program in Modern Thought and Literature in 2010. His writing has been published in Cultural Anthropology and American Ethnologist, and is forthcoming in Critical Inquiry. He is currently revising his manuscript, Subjects of Freedom: Psychology, Power and Politics in Postsocialist Russia.



Time: 6:00 pm

Location: Olin, Room 204