University of St.Gallen
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Between Pravda and Prada: the negotiation of geopolitical identities at a Russian elite university

abstract Be it the gas dispute with Ukraine, the American missile shield in Eastern Europe or the Iran crisis – for several years now Russia has demonstrated growing self-confidence in interstate diplomacy and international politics. Not only has coverage of Russia-related issues increased in Western media, but there has also increased a particular kind of coverage which depicts Russia as having shed the conformity of the 1990s to boldly and independently pursue its national interests. Russia’s role in the world is changing and this change begs key questions as to Russia’s geopolitical position: What role should Russia play in world politics? What are its interests, who should it be loyal to? Where does it belong?

While foreign policy is an important component, the search for Russia’s geopolitical identity takes place at all levels of Russian society. The Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) occupies a prominent position in the negotiation of geopolitical identities. Once dubbed the ‘anvil of cadres’ of the Soviet nomenclatura, it has developed into a particular kind of ‘elite university’ in the post-Soviet age. With the reassertion of Russia’s self-confidence, a young generation of students is educated at MGIMO who knows of Russia primarily as an emerging country.

Between Pravda and Prada a multiplicity of geopolitical imaginations of Russia’s role and place in the world compete for constitutive hegemony at MGIMO. In this vortex the articulation of geopolitical identities unfolds as a hybrid in its own right – a product of transformation processes which are marked by unprecedented openness but at the same time, inevitably, are subject to attempts at hegemonialisation and closure.

My dissertation conceptualises the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as a dislocation effect within Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory, serving as a trigger of antagonistic struggles for the articulation of new identities. Drawing on material from ethnographic field research and interviews, I aim to describe these antagonisms as well as the processes by which geopolitical identities are articulated and how they play out seen through the particular lens at MGIMO.
   
keywords Russia, foreign policy, critical geopolitics, discourse, poststructuralism
   
partner
type dissertation project
status completed
start of project 2005
end of project 2008
additional informations
topics Russia, foreign policy, critical geopolitics, discourse, poststructuralism
methods discourse analysis
contact Martin Mueller