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Soviet People with Female Bodies: Performing Beauty and Maternity in Soviet Russia in the mid 1930-1960s
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The everyday practices of maternity and beauty are important for the enactment of femininity. This dissertation deals with femininities created in the context of changing ideas about “normality” in Soviet Russia during the mid 1930s-1960s and explores a diversity of norms, discourses and rituals. The main sources are women’s magazines, advice books, and interviews with women living now in three different cities of the Russian Federation – Moscow, Saratov (Volga region) and Ufa (capital of Bashkortostan Republic).

The results of the research suggest that some parts of the Soviet discourses on maternity and beauty turn out to be similar to those that were characteristic for other European countries of the same historical period. At the same time the interviews show that the modern practices of medical and welfare institutions, the consumption of clothes as well as advice about appearance and childcare were situated in the context of shortages of goods, women’s work outside of home, rhetorics of the “naturalness” of maternity for every woman as well as that of a woman’s particular need to care about looking nice. Together with the home reproduction of many rural/patriarchal rituals of maternity and beauty it led to a contradictory everyday performance of femininity. Fluctuating categories of social status, ethnical belonging, geographical location and generation also contributed to a diversity of femininity constructions. Common sense normativities concerning practices of becoming a mother, caring for a baby and making oneself beautiful suggest that Soviet discourses on maternity and beauty were only partly accepted and reproduced by women. They were also partly rejected and subverted in everyday practices. The analysis of maternity and beauty practices shows that performative femininities were utterly complex.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2007. , 347 p.
Södertörn doctoral dissertations, ISSN 1652-7399 ; 16Stockholm studies in history, ISSN 0491-0842 ; 89
Keyword [en]
oral history, Soviet Russia, maternity, beauty, everyday life, memory, body, normality, femininity, gender, intersectionality
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-6980ISBN: 978-91-85445-72-1OAI: diva2:197398
Public defence
2007-09-24, MA 636, Södertörns högskola, Alfred Nobels allé 7, Huddinge, 13:00 (English)

Boken innehåller en sammanfattning på ryska.

Available from: 2007-07-20 Created: 2007-07-20 Last updated: 2014-05-19Bibliographically approved

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