In her lecture, Svetlana Adonyeva will draw from anthropology to explain how the mass symbolic practices of modern Russia can be both openly sanctioned (like “Gifts of the Magi” or “The Immortal Regiment”) as well as concealed, dissolved into routine acts of kinship, ownership and friendship (such as weddings, funerals, birthdays and New Year’s celebrations.)
Spontaneous symbolic activities are symptoms of stress on the social body. By deciphering the language of metaphors and mass gestures, we can start to understand the conflicts within a society.
The social body (that is, a community in a given time and space) lives: it ages, it gets sick, it adapts to change, it heals, etc. A particular stress can be removed (e.g., a conflict reaches resolution), but the body can never return to its original condition; it has transformed. This form of adaptation to change – necessary to ensure the longevity of the life of a community – is and remains ritual. The quest to find rituals capable of healing the ailing social body without altering it is one of the defining features of the present moment in Russian everyday life.
Svetlana Adonyeva is a philologist, folklorist, and anthropologist now teaching at the St Petersburg State University. She has penned numerous articles and monographs on folklore and pop culture, including: Kategoria nenastoyashevo vremeni (“Category of Unreal Time”), St Petersburg, 2001; Dukh naroda i drugie dukhi (“The Spirit of the People and Other Spirits”), St Petersburg 2009; andSimbolicheskii poryadok (“Symbolic Order”), St Petersburg, 2011. In 2013, Adonyeva was recognized with both the Eli Köngäs-Maranda Prize and the prestigious 2013 Chicago Folklore Prize for her collaborative work with Laura J. Olsen, The Worlds of Russian Village Women: Tradition, Transgression, Compromise (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013). Adonyeva heads up the research project “The Primary Signs, or Pragmemes.”