Xenia Cherkaev Book Talk "Gleaning for Communism: The Soviet Socialist Household in Theory and Practice"
Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg
November 28, 2022 Mon, Nov. 28, 4-5:30PM 14S-130, The Nexus, Hayden Library
Xenia Cherkaev will speak about her forthcoming book Gleaning for Communism: The Soviet Socialist Household in Theory and Practice (Cornell UP 2023). The book tells a radically new story of how the Soviet system functioned and why it failed. Mediating between today’s popular narratives of “Soviet times” and the ownership categories of Soviet civil law, it shows the Soviet Union as an explicitly illiberal modern project, reliant in theory and fact on collectivist ethics. A historical ethnography, its narrative begins in the 2010s with former Leningrad residents’ stories of gleaning industrial scrap from worksites. Placing these stories in conversation with Soviet legal theories of property and with economic, political and social history, this book shows the Soviet Union as a “socialist household economy,” whose members were guaranteed “personal” rights to a commons of socialist property rather than private possessions. It traces the development of such “personal” rights though three historically significant turns – during the 1930s, 1960s and 1980s – and shows how the Soviet project unfolded in dialogue with contemporaneous neoliberal thought in one overarching debate about the possibility of a collectivist modern life.