Borders of Socialism

CFP: edited volume

From: Lewis Siegelbaum []
Sent: Monday, December 08, 2003 9:26 AM
Subject: Call for papers

Borders of Socialism: The Private Sphere in the Soviet Union

Was there a private sphere in the Soviet Union, even in Stalin's time? What forms of property aside from the garden plots of collective- and state-farm households and what kinds of social behavior other than the familial and affective might be considered private? Recent research has suggested a surprisingly wide range of activities, geographical spaces, and objects that might be subsumed under the category of the "private sphere." These include the employment of domestic servants, personal property ownership and inheritance, peasant markets in urban areas, philatelic and numismatic collecting and trading, to name but a few.

How, though, should we conceptualize the private sphere under Stalin? Was it a recessive category, what was left after the state defined what fell within its realm? Was it in opposition to the state (or public sphere), an extension of it, or did the two work in tandem? How was the private experienced by those who partook of it? What are the methodological issues associated with identifying and analyzing the private?

There is some sense that the private sphere, how ever it is defined, expanded considerably in the post-Stalin decades. This trend which included the availability of such items as televisions, telephones, family apartments and even automobiles has been characterized as the "destatization" of Soviet society. What was driving this process? How was it handled politically and ideologically? Are there important regional or national distinctions to be made about where privatization proceeded furthest?

Finally, how does an increased awareness of the private sphere and its changing boundaries alter our understanding of Soviet history and its major turning points?

These are only some of the questions that might be used to frame contributions to a volume I am editing for publication with the tentative title of "Borders of Socialism: The Private Sphere in the Soviet Union."* The principal aim of such a volume would be neither to celebrate nor lament the emergence/resilience of a private sphere within Soviet socialism, but rather to offer the field a new and challenging lens through which to understand what Soviet socialism was.

I am soliciting contributions of no more than fifty printed pages that could be submitted at least in draft form no later than December 31, 2004. If you are interested, please send me an abstract of 100-150 words by January 15, 2004. I promise to get back to you shortly thereafter. If you would like to discuss this project with me, please contact me either by e-mail ( or phone (517 -355-7502).

I look forward to hearing from you.

* If you are interested in presenting a paper that would lend itself to a panel on the private sphere at the 2004 AAASS conference in Boston, please indicate tentative title.