Driving in terrain

Automobility, modernity, and the politics of statelessness in Russia


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The developing culture of mass private automobile ownership in Russia became a prominent platform for post‐Soviet citizen‐drivers to (re)negotiate their relationship with the state. The convergence of power, infrastructure, and modernity in automobility made salient the old Soviet promise of infrastructural and cultural development, delegitimizing the post‐Soviet contraction of the state's sphere of responsibility. On the other hand, the inherent danger and autonomy of automobile technology, combined with highly spatialized local politics, reveal a number of political mechanisms and imaginaries that make such withdrawals peculiarly legitimate. Finally, through the windshield of a private car in Russia, the state emerges as the ontology and a total social fact. This contradicts the anti‐statist, pluralist, and the localizing concepts of the state in contemporary anthropology.