The scenes from authoritarian field: researching queerness in Kazakhstan and Russia

Mariya Levitanus, Polina Kislitsyna

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

Abstract / Description of output

This article focuses on exploring the ethical issues when researching queer people in the authoritarian contexts of Kazakhstan and Russia. Contributing to a limited body of work on ethics of researching gender and sexuality in post-Soviet context (for example, Shevtsova, 2018), this paper reflexively interrogates relational dynamics in two earlier research projects on queer narratives undertaken by Mariya (in Kazakhstan, 2017) and Polina (in Russia, 2018). In this presentation, we grapple with the power relations implicit in a number of scenes arising while interviewing queer participants. We engage with debates around in/visibility of queerness in authoritarian contexts considering how silences and the unseen within research context reproduces wider socio-political discourses in two countries. We discuss some messy, unanticipated situations, dilemmas and tensions arising in the field whilst researching queer people in Kazakhstan and Russia. For example, the issues of the researcher’s self-presentation and positionality were solved by Mariya and Polina in different ways, according to the interview contexts and institutional norms. Engaging with Serra Undurraga’s (2021) practice of performative meta-reflexivity we interrogate our ways of
relating to our subjects, ourselves, each other and what is that producing and enacting. Furthermore, from a queer and relational ethics stance, we consider the interpersonal dynamics between us and our participants as well as effects of our relationship as co-researchers and co-writers as we reflect on entangled and layered positionalities, motives and feelings during and after the research process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023
EventLGBTQ+ Studies at Risk - UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Mar 202324 Mar 2023


ConferenceLGBTQ+ Studies at Risk
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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