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Are State-Run Youth Organizations Redefining State Power and Citizenship in Russia? Post-socialist Russia expert and Family Research Scholar, Julie Hemment, completes NSF Grant.

Dr. Julie Hemment, associate professor of anthropology, is an expert on post-socialist Russia’s civil society and forms of civic activism since the mid 1990’s. In 2005 the center for Research on Families awarded Hemment a Family Research Scholarship, which launched her most recent research project and enabled her to secure a diversity of funding to do her work.

 

Hemment’s research rests on a solid appreciation of the profound shifts Russian society has undergone since the collapse of the Soviet states, and her work bridges many different fields and sub-fields within the social sciences, including social movements, women's studies, post-socialist and Russian studies, youth studies, and development studies. Her research interest in Russia began when she first travelled to Russia in the late 1980’s.The cultural shifts and seismic dislocation she witnessed, as well as Russian people’s exuberance and resourcefulness intrigued her and propelled her to study anthropology in graduate school. Since then, she has undertaken extensive ethnographic research, mostly based in the provincial city, Tver. In 2007, Hemment’s first book, Empowering Women in Russia: Activism, Aid, and NGOs, was publishedand it is a must read for those interested in post-Soviet Russia and post-socialism.

 

In 2005 Hemment was selected as a Family Research Scholar, and with the support of the Center for Research on Families, received a series of small external and internal grants (including a Marionand Jasper Whiting Foundation Fellowship, grants from the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, an IREX grant and a faculty research grant) to initiate a second collaborative research project with her Tver-based colleagues to study the potential that community service learning methodologies have in the Russian context.  Hemment’s conversation about pedagogy soon morphed into an exploration of how youth have become the new subjects of state policy, as she and her Russian colleagues came to understand the extent of the Putin administration’s new “patriotic education” program and youth-oriented campaigns.  Hemment was initially interested in the promotion of youth volunteerism and its relationship to social welfare restructuring, and after receiving a National Science Foundation grant Hemment was able to extend the collaborative project and focus her attention on the broader context of youth policies, which provide extensive funding to youth volunteer projects.

 

Hemment and her colleagues examined a diverse set of state-run projects from the notorious pro-Kremlin youth organization, Nashi, to local projects promoting youth volunteerism. At the 2010 Annual Family Research Forum and Awards Dinner, Hemment explained, “I’m drawn to explore and to probe the significance of the hybridity that these campaigns and state-run organizations and projects manifest, where there is a mingling of Soviet-era images and values competing with nationalist symbols and market logics.” True to her interest in participatory research, Hemment and her colleagues devised a novel collaborative research methodology to explore these themes. The model engaged college-aged youth in the process of inquiry about state-run youth organizations, and the Russian undergraduate students who were involved acquired skills in qualitative analysis while completing ethnographic research at these organizations.

 

As a Family Research Scholar, Hemment connected the University of Massachusetts to an international discussion about the impact that youth-oriented state policies are having on future of Russia. Social scientists, policy makers, NGO professionals, sociologists, and political scientists will all benefit from Hemment's drive to raise the awareness of an emerging post-Soviet Russia, and her research confirms the central role that anthropology plays in helping us shape our understanding of contemporary Russian society and its future directions.