Vasilina Orlova

is creating contexts




per month


I am a socio-cultural anthropologist focused on the affective, or feeling-related side of mobility and immobility. I study how our deep-seated feelings, such as nostalgia, melancholy, and hope influence our decision to stay in a place--or go. My research question is, what keeps people stay put in a place despite the overwhelming economic hardships and failing infrastructure? If you think, lack of resources--sure, but this is only a part of the answer, and not that big of a part as you might assume. Personal factors play an important role. I devote my work to proving it through a set of evidence consisting of ethnographic data.

The things that I am reflecting on here, on Patreon, fall into several categories:

- the struggle of my scientific writing;

- academia;

- the content of my work, which is the questions of mobility, (im)mobility, vulnerability, poverty, affect, nostalgia, melancholy, hope, and nonchalance.

I will post here the new renditions of my work, and the comments are always welcome. I am seeking to make sure that what I am doing is resonating with the world. Ideally, this space would become a peer-review space where I can bounce off my ideas of other people.

I enjoy my academic journey; I hit a lot of milestones as they came: I was able to put together panels at big conferences such as American Anthropological Association and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies; I applied to and got numerous grants and can teach people how to write a successful grant application; and I taught courses like Expressive Culture and led seminars in socio-cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and visual anthropology: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Culture and Communication, and The Photographic Image.

The struggle of the writing of the dissertation and articles that accompany it is a difficult one, even for me, despite that I love writing, and I am able to produce great volumes of text. I've read plenty of books on how to facilitate the process of writing, and I am going to share resources here on Patreon as we go along.

I fully intend to transform the text of my dissertation into a book; right now, my work is titled Cities of the Future: Landscapes of Nostalgia and Hope in Post-Industrial Eastern Siberia.

Patreon is a semi-private space that I am creating for myself and those people who might want to join me on this travel of writing this book and solving its main question.

I first thought about Siberia as a rich ground of exploration in 2008, shortly before I got pregnant with my one and only child. In the neighborhood library in Moscow, my home town, I began writing a novel based on Siberian material and immersed myself into Kolchak's story, the mythology of the lost gold of the Russian crown, and many intricate tensions between the Red and the White sides of the Russian Civil War. As we know only all too well, the Bolsheviks had an upper hand. Twenty plus years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Siberian spaces continue their development as a multiplicity of cultures, Russionized but also preserving national colors, textures, and forms.

I have collected a big photo archive of things I was lucky to observe during my many journeys to Siberia and wrote hundreds of pages. I am also an avid blogger; I have a wordpress Anthropology and Dust (the title that, in my intention, reflects on the ephemeral nature of most blogposts); Instagram where I posted a considerable selection of my fieldwork visuals, and my website that I tried to keep to the minimum. The most poetic and nostalgic bits that sometimes overflow the borders of my dissertation, I showed on medium. The bigger pieces, mostly drafts that I don't anticipate returning to, I put on

The methods that I use in my work are more traditional modes of anthropological research, such as participant observation and semi-structured interviews posing open-ended questions. I also used photo elicitation and spatial elicitation: I looked at the photo albums with people and walked places with people soliciting their responses to their private landmarks of the place in order to understand the connection they built with places.

I used different platforms and social media--including Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, and even Twitter--to quickly pen some of my fieldnotes (those who were not as sensitive compared to what I had to write by hand in my notebooks). 

Anthropology is not my first, nor it is the only career of mine, as I am also writing in a variety of different genres, including poetry and essay. The majority of my books so far were published in Russian; most recent, Anthropology of Everydayness [Antropologia povsednevnosti] (Moscow, Nookratia, 2018) was named by Nezavisimaya Gazeta among the best nonfiction books of the year. I have two books of poetry in English available on Amazon, and I continue working on bringing my experimental prose/poetry writing to the reader with a small crew of devoted and amazing people.

But returning to my scholarly work, the stage where I am at right now is crucial: the world saw and heard something out of my work, and my main task is to continue lining up and presenting my data. It is to this end that I invite you to join me here.

I am going to make a commitment of updating the Patreon once a week. I have not yet looked at the tiers and am not sure I will use them as an instrument.

My main passion and the significance of my work as I see it is, if we find out what keeps people rooted, what kind of attachment they form to the place, we can eventually alleviate moving for them by addressing the needs that they associate with staying in the place, or, we could alleviate their being in the place by fulfilling the lacks that push people out of the places they love--we will be able to do both, depending on the need. If anthropology's task is to diminish human suffering in the world, here is a tangible contribution and a worthy cause.

Vasilina Orlova
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When I have 50 patrons here, I will invent a monthly feature.
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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 15 exclusive posts

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