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Informality in Eastern Europe

Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices


Edited By Christian Giordano and Nicolas Hayoz

This volume deals with different aspects of informal structures and practices in Eastern Europe. Its objectives are twofold. It aims at discovering whether or to what extent informal structures and practices in Eastern Europe have meanings, functions, forms and effects different from those that can be observed in the politics and societies of Western Europe. The authors of this volume – most of them are from the region – have been invited to discuss the scientific relevance of the distinction informal / formal in their respective field of research or discipline. This points to the second objective of this volume which is to encourage a more fruitful interaction between disciplines that often disregard each other and which, despite inevitable and essential epistemological differences, have significant shared interests such as the comparative analysis of political phenomena in terms of elementary forms of social organization. The relation between informality and formality in a more methodologically pluralist and ultimately holistic way can be analysed via regards croisés between the disciplines anthropology, political science and sociology. This allows the extension of this comparative and multidisciplinary approach to other themes and phenomena of mutual interests.
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Informality as a “Weapon of the Weak”? Public Representation of Tatar Youth Movements in Kazan, Russia


Andrea Friedli

Informality as a “Weapon of the Weak”? Public Representation through Informal Practices of Tatar Ethnocultural Youth Movements in Kazan, Russia1


During field work, social anthropologists usually try to expand their network of informants by means of the so-called “snowball system”, which means that respondents give the anthropologist access to their own personal network in order to recruit interview partners for their research. Often, informants are keen to mobilize their most prestigious contacts to gain status with the researcher. Thus, when a member of a Tatar youth movement in Kazan suggested that he could arrange for me meetings with the delegate of the mufti of Tatarstan, the President of the World Congress of the Tatars, the personal adviser of the President of Tatarstan or the Director of the Tatar theatre, I first took this discourse as a strategy of impression management in face of the ignorant foreign researcher. With time, however, it became clear that such horizontal and vertical personal networks hinted at by the young Tatar mentioned above are a key resource for the strategies for public action and performance of Tatar ethnonational youth movements and youth scenes. Thus, in the analysis of the role of youth in the nation-building processes in postsocialist societies it is important to be aware that the study of official youth policy and actions of institutionalized youth organizations does not, on its own, give an adequate image.

In Russia, contradictory trends regarding the construction...

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