This research project analyses how Russian political discourse connects masculinity/femininity with macro and micro levels of loneliness to legitimize ‘Great Russia’ nationalism through masculine “politics of loneliness”. “Politics of loneliness” will refer to forms of politicization of human loneliness, and more specifically existential ‘loneliness anxiety’, for the purposes of building legitimacy for a particular collective identity and preservation of its ontological insecurity.
The research problem then could be formulated as follows: Modern Russian sovereignitism and nationalism can be significantly legitimized and fuelled through silenced masculinity and ‘loneliness anxiety’; their impact can be identified through a more systematic analysis of domestic, foreign, and transnational dimensions of Russian affairs and political discourse.
At the heart of my project lies the following research question: Why and to what extent do notions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘loneliness anxiety’ contribute to explaining the legitimization of Russian sovereignitism and gendered nationalism in domestic and foreign affairs. This research is not about a monocausal argument. The framing of this question suggests that, besides masculinity and loneliness anxiety, there can be other factors that contribute to explaining the legitimization of Russian nationalistic sovereigntism. However, I will concentrate on the research goal to look at the ideological discourse of sovereigntism as a tool for patterning difference and domination through the management of masculine loneliness anxieties in modern Russian society.
Here, not only do I contend that states can talk on behalf of their people when state discourse on sovereignty directly or implicitly appeals to a nationally or civilizationally defined ‘loneliness anxiety’ of the people. Moreover, in societies like Russia, dominated by the ‘male gaze’ on politics, the exploitation of loneliness anxiety leads to sovereigntism becoming a ‘masculine organized loneliness’.
This project will start with 1) outlining the psychological research on loneliness and then 2) unpack how this relates to political theory and international relations. 3) I will explain the link between ‘loneliness' and “nationalist sovereigntism’ and 4) justify the choice of Russia as a case. I will proceed to explaining why demasculinization of narratives of Russian sovereigntism is impossible without analysis of silenced “gendered nationalism” dimension of “politics of loneliness” in Russia. Lastly, I will juxtapose and compare Russian “gendered nationalism”, “vertical” politics of loneliness with “horizontal”, transnational practices of managing loneliness by “Global Russians” on a micro level, thereby demasculinizing the former.
Generalizability and research output. The results of the project and on-line survey will be presented at http://odinochestva.net/
. The latter web platform will be used for development of Politics of Loneliness & Solitude (PoLS) Lab in the future. Among the main goals of PoLS I see four following:
1) political theory demarcation between conformist loneliness anxiety and creative solitude (known in existential psychology as division between “loneliness” vs “solitude”);
2) comparative politics feminism and transnationalism-based empirical deconstruction of vertical, nationalist and masculine modes of the politics of loneliness, which are often based on collective narcissism, intergenerational trauma and phallocentric positionalities;
3) development of epistemology and methodology for the analysis politics of loneliness, for example, study of political loneliness emotions through their visual representations (street posters, cinematography, mental maps etc.);
4) discovering new philosophical and anthropological avenues for self-actualization of individual (Abraham Maslow) through transcultural dialogue and transcendental ‘life knowledge’ (Semen Frank). Opening of our “odinochestva” (Russian word for “solitudes”) to shelter “strangers” (Albert Camus), and to co-exist “in solitude, where we are least alone” (Lord Byron).
Therefore, Politics of Loneliness & Solitude Lab is aimed to accommodate multidisciplinary research program at the intersection of existentialism, feminism, and visual political anthropology.