Researching Women’s Labour Force Participation, Childcare and Family Policy in Post-Soviet Russia | UACES Scholar: Olena Lyubchenko

The UACES Network |

Report by UACES Scholar 2018, Olena Lyubchenko (York University, Toronto). Applications are now open for the 2019 UACES Scholarships.

The 2018 UACES Scholarship of £1,500 has allowed me to conduct a part of fieldwork research toward my PhD dissertation, preliminarily titled, Gender Order in Transition?: Social Reproduction in Post-Soviet Russia, while holding a Visiting Researcher position at the Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR), in St. Petersburg, Russia for the period of May 15, 2018 to July 8, 2018.

My project explores how the relationship between women’s participation in the labour force, family policy, and childcare policy has changed in post-Soviet Russia. The scholarship funds empowered me to both reside in St. Petersburg continuously during May, June, and July 2018 and gain academic affiliation with CISR, essential for gathering original primary data from below.

The funds provided for a modest accommodation and office space at the centre, covered some food expenses and local transportation expenses for the duration of the trip.  This way, I was able to recruit and meet with interviewees at various locations in St. Petersburg and its suburbs and work at St. Petersburg archives and libraries with historical documents that I would not be able to access remotely from Canada.

The CISR affiliation gave me access to its original collection of journals and books, a working space for interviewing and writing, and a guestroom accommodation. The centre’s team supported me in the selection process and conducting of interviews – some of its members gave me access to their existing networks.

I have greatly benefited from intellectual exchange with Russian and European scholars situated at the centre and have gained contacts with scholars that work in the field of Gender Studies at the European University in St. Petersburg, where I attended some meetings and events. As a result of my networking experience on this research trip, I had been invited to showcase my research by participating in a “Feminism, Marxism and Women’s Work” panel, at a conference that will be held at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg, October 5-6, 2018.

Over the course of the research visit in St. Petersburg I have conducted a total of 30 interviews. Once I was in the field, I have learned that some participants are hesitant to record their signature on the Written Informed Consent Form due to mistrust of bureaucratic proceedings, including paperwork. To ensure that the interview is conducted with utmost responsibility and attention to the participants’ particular context, I successfully amended my ethics protocol at York University to the optional use of Written Informed Consent Document or Oral Informed Consent Document, to be chosen by the interviewee.

While this seemed like a significant challenge at first, it made for an important research insight in itself.  I have built strong networks with interviewees, which I can rely upon in the future if I return to the field with follow up research questions or a related research project.

The findings that this research trip has been generating, with strong support from the 2018 UACES Scholarship will impact scholarly debates on women’s work and social policy in former state-socialist countries. I presented some of my findings at the UACES 48th Annual Conference at the University of Bath, UK, 2-5 September 2018.

Applications are now open for the 2019 UACES Scholarships. UACES is offering 4 Scholarships for a fixed amount of 1,500 GBP, to support PhD students undertaking essential fieldwork in contemporary European Studies. 

European Studies scholar PhDOlena Lyubchenko is a PhD candidate in Political Science at York University, Toronto. She was a visiting researcher at the Centre for Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg. Her research interests include neoliberal restructuring, gender order transition, labour market insecurity, nationalism, and European integration in former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries. Olena’s PhD dissertation work draws on comparative welfare regimes, social history of everyday life, and feminist political economy scholarship to trace the ways in which the intensification of market discipline in post-Soviet states restructures the Soviet gender order.