Publication Date

4-15-2015

Advisor(s)

Laura Ann Twagira

Major

Russian and East European Studies, History (HIST)

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Disability in Russia is and was legally defined through work capacity, specifically through labor capacity remaining. Because of the meaning of labor in the Soviet period, labor capacity was strongly connected to the ability to participate in community and collective. Not surprisingly, the inability to participate in the community resulted in isolation. Because trauma, in Russia, is defined as an experience that causes a person to be separated from the rest of society, rather than as an individual experience, disability is experienced as traumatic. The experience of trauma, through the inability participate in the community because of isolation, is, in turn, an experience of disability. Disability, therefore, primarily refers to the way in which Russians understand themselves in relation to the state, to the collective and to the community through meaningful participation. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, however, the state and the Soviet collective disappeared. In the absence of a community to participate in, in the absence of access to meaningful forms of participation, the 1990s were a period of traumatic, individualizing isolation. In this context, where everyone was isolated, the nature of identity changed. Without a general community to be isolated from, the division between abled people and disabled people was more ambiguous. When new concepts of participation and community emerged out of the 1990s, so too emerged new concepts of disability.

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