In the August, 2009 issue of Cultural Anthropology, Tomas Matza examines the practices and politics of self-help in Russia as channeled through a new wave of Russian talk shows, many broadcast via state-run media. Through the analysis of a radio show, entitled “For Adults about Adults,” which offers callers and listeners psychological advice, Matza investigates the ways in which “the self” is reshaped as an object of government, implicating neoliberal technologies in the remaking of postsocialist subjectivity.
Matza's analysis reveals that “For Adults about Adults” incites autonomous, responsible, self-esteeming subjects, in addition to advocating alternative social relations, practices of intimacy and visions of “civil” society. Matza further outlines a complex discursive field, in which the host's technologies of the self construct a liberal-democratic citizen more so than a rational-choice actor, and the competing visions of selfhood, social life, emotions and politics provided by caller responses belie the multiple forces which bear on post-Soviet subjectivity. The psychotherapeutically inspired, neoliberal subject incited by Russian self-help programming dovetails with a state interest in fostering entrepreneurialism among citizens, serving a call to sacrifice all for the economy.
Cultural Anthropology has published a number of essays that examine the dynamics of postsocialist contexts. See on post socialist contexts. See Karolina Szmagalska-Follis’ “Repossession: Notes on Restoration and Redemption in Ukraine's Western Borderland”(2008), Paul Manning’s “Rose-Colored Glasses? Color Revolutions and Cartoon Chaos in Postsocialist Georgia” (2007), Judith Farquhar and Qicheng Zhang’s “Biopolitical Beijing: Pleasure, Sovereignty, and Self-Cultivation in China's Capital” (2005), Alexia Bloch’s “Longing for the Kollektiv: Gender, Power, and Residential Schools in Central Siberia” (2005), and Matthew Kohrman’s ” Authorizing a Disability Agency in Post-Mao China: Deng Pufang's Story as Biomythography” (2003).
Cultural Anthropology’s archive also includes many essays that examine the role of media in subject formation. See, for example, Joseph Masco’s "Survival is Your Business": Engineering Ruins and Affect in Nuclear America” (2008). Brian Silverstein’s Disciplines of Prescence in Modern Turkey: Discourse, Companionship, and the Mass Media of Islamic Practice” (2008, Cymene Howe’s ”Spectacles of Sexuality: Televisionary Activism in Nicaragua” (2008), Sara L. Friedman’s “ Watching Twin Bracelets in China: The Role of Spectatorship and Identification in an Ethnographic Analysis of Film Reception” (2006) and Laura Kunreuther’s ”Technologies of the Voice: FM Radio, Telephone, and the Nepali Diaspora in Kathmandu” (2006).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tomas Matza is currently a Ph.D candidate in the Modern Thought and Literature department at Stanford University, and a participant in the "Foucault Across the Disciplines" research cluster at the University of California Santa Cruz.
LINKS FROM THE ESSAY
Clip from "Lolita. Without Complexes":
1979. The policing of families. New York: Pantheon.
1988 The History of Sexuality, vol. 3: The Care of the Self. New York: Vintage.
1990 The History of Sexuality, vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure. New York: Vintage.
1991 Governmentality. In The Foucault Effect. G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller, eds. Pp. 87–104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2005. The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the College de France, 1981–82. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.
2007. Security, Territory, Population: LNew York: Palgrave-Macmillan.
2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rose, Nikolas S.
1990. Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. London: Routledge.
1996a. Governing “Advanced” Liberal Democracies. In Foucault and Political Reason. A. Barry, T. Osborne, and N. S. Rose, eds. Pp. 37–64. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1996b. Inventing our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.