Archaeology of Socialism

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This highly original case study, which adopts a material culture perspective, is unprecedented in social and cultural histories of the Soviet period and provides a unique window on social relations. The author demonstrates how Moisei Ginzburg's Constructivist masterpiece, the Narkomfin Communal House, employed classic Marxist understandings of material culture in an effort to overturban capitalist and patriarchal social structures. Through the edifying effects of architectural forms, Ginzburg attempted to induce socialist and feminist-inspired social and gender relations. The author shows how, for the inhabitants, these principles manifested themselves, from taste to hygiene to gender roles, and how individuals variously appropriated architectural space and material culture to cope with the conditions of daily life, from the utopianism of the First Five Year Plan and Stalin's purges to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This book makes a major contribution to: the history of socialism in the Soviet Union and, more generally, Eastern Europe; material culture studies; architectural history; archaeology and social anthropology.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Buchli has admirably countered ... considerable difficulties in a multi-faceted investigative process which could be characterized as an 'archaeology of socialism', in a sense reminiscent of Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge." —Jourbanal of Design History

"An Archaeology of Socialism is a fascinating and well written book based on the intellectually charming premise that theories of the function of material culture were heavily tested and found wanting by the Russian socialist byt (life-style) reform programs of the last 80 years ... The value of the book lies in the clarity of Buchli's prose as he navigates the choppy seas of postmodern philosophy. In some cases, his explications of theory are more elegant than the writings of the original authors." —American Ethnologist

"There is much of interest here, particularly in the analysis of the Stalin period." —Slavonica

"While Buchli has much to say about wallpaper, the types and uses of furbaniture available to inhabitants, and other seemingly minute 'artefacts' of Soviet life, he is really after a much bigger game. His monograph charts the distinct ways in which individuals and families endeavoured to alter and adapt their living spaces, and how these interventions related to the changing nature of official ideology. As such, he has much to say about that fundamental issue of freedom and the private sphere, as it relates to material culture." —Jourbanal of Contemporary History

"[The book] deserves to be read.Buchli has a good eye for all the manifest ironies, discontinuities and just plain ambiguities of material culture, and his (deservedly) sceptical attitude to much of what passes in social anthropology and archaeology for 'material culture' is quite refreshing." —The Australian Jourbanal of Anthropology

"A much-needed microcosmic study of Soviet socialism." —SEER

"A major contribution to a general understanding of how people relate to their material culture." —Cambridge Archaeological Jourbanal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859732120
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Series: Materializing Culture Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Lexile: 1410L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor Buchli is a Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, at the University College London.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
1 Introduction 1
2 Revolution and the Restructuring of the Material World 23
3 Soviet Hygiene and the Battle against Dirt and Petit-Bourgeois Consciousness 41
4 The Narkomfin Communal House and the Material Culture of Socialism 63
5 Stalinism and the Domestication of Marxism 77
6 The Narkomfin Communal House and Marxist Domesticity 99
7 De-Stalinisation and the Reinvigoration of Marxist Understandings of the Material World 137
8 The Narkomfin Communal House and the Material Culture of De-Stalinisation 159
9 Conclusion 185
Appendix 201
Sources 209
Index 219
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