Dierdre Ruscitti Harshman

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: University of Illinois
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Modern Europe (Including Russia)
  • Dissertation Title: A Space Called Home: Housing and the Construction of the Everyday in Russia, 1890-1935
  • There is no space like home. Although many would consider it to be a quintessentially private space, the home is anything but, as it has often been used as a site on which conceptions of the domestic and of belonging can be shaped. The process of shaping, defining and controlling the meaning of 'home' is born out of a version of modernity, which supposes it is not only possible but also good to exert a standardizing pressure and create a stable and unified vision of the home. In late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russia, this desire for standardization ironically resulted in multiple (often conflicting) definitions of what the 'home' could be. While reformist and revolutionary movements in Russia placed the 'home' and related conceptions of belonging at the center of their campaigns to create a new everyday life, they never agreed as to what that everyday life should look like. In short, my dissertation traces how desires for a standardized meaning of 'home' were, and are' in constant tension with the messy process by which meaning is actually ascribed by government officials, liberal reformers, landlords, residents, and others.
    I explore the meanings of home through an interrogation of the idea of belonging. Belonging implies both having physical access to a home (here called the built environment) and having control over defining what being in that space means (lived environment). My dissertation highlights the ways various people and institutions have put forth, contested and challenged notions of belonging vis-a-vis the home: from what control residents had to shape definitions of their own homes, and of the Russian home space, to how elites and other actors of various political projects attempted to create, enforce and legitimate that same space. These myriad definitions, I argue, constantly built off of, completed with, and challenged each other.