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Tamara Kusimova

Tamara Kusimova


Project Title: Upward Mobility, Success and Dignity in Contemporary Russia

I am a cultural sociologist currently working on the cultural meanings of upward mobility and success in contemporary Russia. Before FU Berlin, I worked at the Department of Sociology and the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

In my research, I study people who wanted to improve their lives and tried to do so - a process academics call 'vertical mobility'. Some of them left their hometowns to compete for prestigious university places in Moscow, navigating challenging new environments; others relied on parental support or succeeded despite adverse social conditions.

Between 2021 and 2023, I conducted several dozen in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations in Moscow. I talked to my interviewees about growing up, education and career choices, success and self-realization in contemporary Russia; we also touched on inequality and their ideas of a just society. This leads us to the question of how the frames of reference within which we define some life changes as 'vertical mobility' and 'success' are changing. How can we talk about the cultural meanings of vertical mobility in times of great turmoil and in the context of non-democratic regime?

During my research stay at the FU Berlin, I would like to focus on how the public discourse on success is changing in contemporary Russia. What are the central narratives of this discourse? What is the role of official actors (e.g. the state, but also public organizations) promoting conservative ideas in these transformations?

Kurakin D., Kusimova T. 2023. Narrative structures of ‘escape’: progressive narrative and cultural structures of upward mobility in an elite Russian university. Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research. 15(3). pp 102–140.

Kusimova, T. 2022. ‘Russian Parmesan, even better than the original’: Exploratory research into organic farmers’ valuation strategies. In V. Radaev and Z. Kotelnikova (Eds.), The Ambivalence of Power in the Twenty-First Century Economy (pp. 280–299). UCL Press.

Kusimova T. B. 2019. Status differences and Educational Involvement of Students in Vectors of Development of Modern Russia: Survival strategies and critiques. Materials of the XVII International Scientific and Practical Conference of Young Scientists. Moscow, April 19-21, 2018. 6(2). pp. 120–133 (in Russian).

Kusimova T. B., Shmidt M. A. 2016. Nostalgic Consumption: Sociological Analysis Journal of Institutional Studies 6(2). pp. 120–133 (in Russian).

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