Lesbian identities and everyday space in contemporary urban Russia

Stella, Francesca (2009) Lesbian identities and everyday space in contemporary urban Russia. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2658147


Within the social sciences, the extensive literature on homosexuality as a socio-cultural construct and on ‘queer’ identities and experiences generally focuses on Western European or Anglo-American societies. Sexuality and homosexuality remain relatively unexplored fields of enquiry within Russian studies, even if it is usually acknowledged that the complex transformations undergone by Russian society since the fall of the communist system have deeply affected sexual practices and attitudes to sex and sexuality. This thesis addresses a gap in the literature by exploring how ‘lesbian’ identities, broadly understood as encompassing the whole spectrum of LBT (lesbian, bisexual, transgender/transsexual) women’s sexualities, are (re)constructed and (re)negotiated in contemporary Russia. It draws on data generated through participant observation, ethnographic interviews with sixty-one queer-identified women, and expert interviews with activists in local community initiatives; ethnographic data is framed within a broader analysis of discourses on lesbianism in popular culture and the media.
The thesis critically assesses the centrality of the ‘East/West’ binary in the existing literature on Russian sexualities. Rather than imposing Western-centric categories of identity, it explores women’s own identifications and the meanings they attach to them, framing them within shifting discourses on sexuality, gender and morality across the Soviet and post-Soviet period. The thesis also looks at how sexual identities are performed, negotiated and expressed across everyday contexts such as the home, the workplace, and the street. It interrogates women’s strategies of identity negotiation, highlighting the constraining effects of heteronormative and gendered notions of respectability, but also foregrounding the importance of individual agency. The thesis also maps ‘lesbian/queer’ space in the different urban settings of Moscow and provincial Ul’ianovsk. It explores how ‘lesbian/queer’ space is collectively carved out of the city landscape, while also examining the cultural practices and patterns of socialising attached to specific ‘lesbian’ settings; it also highlights the role of ‘lesbian/queer’ space in validating and performatively producing shared notions of non-heteronormative sexual identities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: lesbian women, identity, performativity, urban space, post-socialism, Russian Federation, sexuality, gender, sexual citizenship
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > Slavonic Studies
Supervisor's Name: Kay, Professor Rebecca and Flynn, Dr. Moya
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr. Francesca Stella
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-622
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:20
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/622

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