Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Disability Inclusion in Contemporary Russia: Between Social Projects and a Project of Social Change

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join us for a discussion with Svetlana Borodina, postdoctoral research scholar at the Harriman Institute. Moderated by Alexander Cooley, director of the Harriman Institute.

Since the 2000s, disability inclusion has gained momentum in Russia. Unlike other foreign-born concepts imported to Russia since the 1990s, disability inclusion received strikingly uniform support from different publics. To understand what enables the appeal of disability inclusion to different actors in Russia, Svetlana Borodina examines how it is currently practiced and what historical processes have ensured its welcome reception. She argues that disability inclusion’s resonance is connected to its form of implementation: instead of functioning as organized political advocacy, disability inclusion materializes in the depoliticized form of “social projects”—short-term events and activities organized by NGOs. Borodina will discuss the opportunities and closures of this form of disability inclusion for Russian people with disabilities and nondisabled actors recruited to address the problem of disability exclusion. Her critical and ethnographically grounded account of contemporary Russian disability inclusion programs provides a window into nonliberal forms of care and “nonpolitical” social change driven by such liberal concepts as inclusion.

Svetlana Borodina is a postdoctoral research scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. As a medical and cultural anthropologist, she studies practices and conceptualizations of disability inclusion in Russia. Her ethnographic work explores the technologies through which bodily and mental differences become folded into the production of postsocialist forms of citizenship and relationality for abled and disabled individuals alike. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rice University in 2020. She also holds graduate certificates in Critical and Cultural Theory and in the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She has written about the affective politics at the nexus of bodies, technology, and biopolitical discourses of self-care, and about the emergent renegotiations of what constitutes ability and disability in contemporary Russia. Her research has been supported by the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Social Sciences Research Institute at Rice University.

Event Video