Research and Publications

Russian city at sunset. Photo taken from a bird's view.

My ethnographic work explores the technologies through which bodily and mental differences become folded into the production of postsocialist forms of citizenship and relationality for abled and disabled individuals alike.

In my dissertation, Needed Subjects: An Ethnography of the Formation of the Inclusion Complex in Russia, I tackle the question “How do the state, activists, and NGOs cultivate disability inclusion?” in the context of postsocialist Russia, a country that in the past decade has undertaken a shift from segregationist disability policies toward a cultural and political orientation of inclusivity. Through ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, Russia has committed to adjusting its legislative, political, and economic protocols and cultural practices according to the principle of inclusion. Despite inclusion’s international acclaim, little regulation exists for making it a functional organizational principle beyond an ideological commitment. Based on 21 months of fieldwork and archival research, my dissertation examines attempts to produce and promote a sustainable culture of inclusivity among disabled and abled individuals in Russia. It critically interrogates inclusion’s universalized moral value and documents the social effects produced by different, sometimes contradictory, interpretations of inclusion, which populate the contemporary Russian landscape of governmental and civic initiatives of social betterment. The study is situated at the intersection of cultural and medical anthropology, critical disability studies, and political anthropology. It scrutinizes the emergence of a new citizenship regime that mandates responsible and collective participation by both the disabled and the abled in building the world of inclusion. My interlocutors, the most significant part of whom are blind, pose a postsocialist inflection of inclusion that challenges liberal ideals of independence, liberty, and obligation to the self, others, and the state. This inflection of inclusion offers insight into the strategies and tactics a postsocialist state uses to co-opt businesses and civic initiatives into coalitional projects of social redress. Finally, my scholarship constitutes an unprecedented account of how blind citizens articulate social critique and reformation.

Academic Publications

2023 Borodina, Svetlana. “Russia’s Domestication of Disability Inclusion.” Problems of Post-Communism.

2022 Borodina, Svetlana. “Intercorporeal Togetherness: On Russian Blind Activists’ Technology of Disability Inclusion.” Cultural Anthropology 37, 3: 486–512.

2021 Borodina, Svetlana. “On Making Presence: Blind Authors’ Digital Storytelling in Russia.” Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media, 21, pp. 23-44.

2021 Borodina, Svetlana. “Unfixing Blindness: Retinal Implants and Negotiations of Abilities in Postsocialist Russia.” Remaking the Human: Cosmetic Technologies of Body Repair, Reshape and Replacement. Chiara Pusetti and Álvaro Jarrín (eds.), pp. 203-227. Berghahn Books.

2021 Borodina, Svetlana. “Strategies of Disability Activism in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia.” Current History, 120 (828), pp. 274-279.

2019 Borodina, Svetlana. Review of Smoking Under the Tsars: A History of Tobacco in Imperian Russia by Tricia Starks. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 74 (4), pp. 471-473.

Other Completed Short-Term Qualitative Research Projects

I have also conducted a short-term collaborative qualitative research project aimed at designing a sustainability plan for Rice University’s Fondren Library. The results of this research are available here:

2019 Fitzpatrick, Ashley, Svetlana Borodina, Lisa Spiro. “Rice University: Fondren Library Sustainability Plan”

Finally, I have participated in an interdisciplinary collaborative research project that explored user sentiments regarding sharing their health data. The publication that came out of this research is available here:

2017 Ostherr, Kirsten, Svetlana Borodina, Rachel Conrad Bracken, Charlie Lotterman, Eliot Storer & Brandon Williams. “Trust and Privacy in the Context of User-Generated Health Data.” Big Data & Society, 4 (1), pp. 1-11.