For example, the general belief
is that one must take into account the relationship between the sides of the ethnographic triad: 1) the researcher, 2) the respondent, a representative of the culture, and 3) the “reader” of the results (the academic environment), in which there is an imbalance of power due to the difference in interests of the heterogeneous academic environment. This imbalance is also present in Russian academia with its asymmetrical structure
The fact that academic research has a customer (an academic organization or grantor, foundation) is important, since Russian academia mainly operates on budgetary funds, and the “customer” does not just read the results obtained, but also determines the thematic priorities of the research. Academic policy in Russia, as I have already written
, is substantively determined by metropolitan scholarship. And this, in turn, is oriented to solving governmental problems. Recognition of Russia’s internal cultural diversity, as well as the relevance of studying it, is certainly a narrative in the works of Russian ethnologists. However, it is primarily associated with analyzing these cultures from a national security standpoint
(so that this multiculturalism does not have the potential to become explosive).
In this way, metropolitan institutions set thematic and political boundaries. Another group of “customers” are the regional authorities. They are focused primarily on solving practical issues (which sometimes results in tasks such as studying cultural traditions in order to counter an increase in alcoholism among the population or reduce the crime rate). Needless to say, since 2022, regional scholars can no longer receive foreign grants, although due to the poor English proficiency of local researchers, there was previously little activity in this direction anyway. And following February 24, 2022, cooperation between Russian and foreign scholars has been greatly restricted, and in some places, even prohibited (although not officially).
The interests of individual members of the research community, who read the results of these studies and evaluate them, including recommending them for publication, depend on their affiliation with metropolitan academia, and therefore correlate with the interests of the customers’ politics. The same applies to the editorial offices of academic journals as instruments of academic policy. Regional scholars find mutual understanding only with similar scholars from other regions: they communicate more fruitfully at regional conferences and publish in each other’s regional publications. These trends also strengthen the asymmetric structure of Russian academia.
In-depth insider research for the field of Russian academia does not have the importance and relevance that we would like to see. It is not discussed, not studied, not updated. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. However, there is the feeling that insider researchers do not recognize themselves as special subjects of scholarship and culture, much less think about their own specific problems. Most notably, they don’t know their own culture and understand their respondents — fellow countrymen, tribesmen and relatives — as well as they think they do.
There is an opinion
that respondents who are cultural representatives are actually excluded from the dialogic circle of ethnography when it comes to the work of outsiders: they are rarely consulted during the writing and publishing stage of a report (Criticism of this attitude towards the “natives” formed the basis for indigenous methodology
, many practitioners of which, in their harshest statements, criticize
the outsider approach on the whole). But insiders can also become foreigners within their own culture! In applying the knowledge and methods established by teachers who were outside of the researcher’s native culture, these researchers are not always able to understand their own kin, culture, or the logic dictating how it functions. Or even how they themselves should work with and relate to the subject.