Gender, Emotion Work, and Collective Identity in the Soldiers´ Mothers NGOs in Russia
School of Technology and Society University of Skövde Goteborg, Sweden
This paper examines the framing processes and emotion work involved in the construction of the collective identity of maternal feminist movement in the Soldiers´ Mothers NGOs (SOMO) in Russia. The anti-draft/ anti-military movement of soldiers´ mothers was created and sustained since the early 1990s in post-Soviet Russia. This paper is based on the materials of the qualitative research conducted in 2000-2004. It presents the analysis of a profound shift in the collective identity of this heterogeneous movement, which in the early 2000s started to identify with the feminist ideas and symbols. Through framing processes and emotion work, a set of ideas, symbols, values, and rules of feeling is produced and reinforced in a shared culture of the movement. The symbols and rules of feeling are staged and confirmed in rituals including routine storytelling, face-to-face interactions, mass meetings, and printed documents.
The "imagined community" (Mohanty 2003) of the movement is produced and sustained by linking together different kinds of struggles staged by women from their different social locations and positioning through gender, class, nation, and culture. The SOMO non-governmental organisations politicise the interpretation of needs of soldier´s mothers and challenge a gendered discourse and rules of feeling about masculine soldier and self-sacrificing mother. The movement furthermore constructs an oppositional symbolic reality of the human rights community, associated with the historical legacy of the Soviet dissidents, and challenges the gendered boundary between the masculinised state /party-politics and the feminised civic activity of the Third sector in the civil society. The SOMO incorporate in its collective identity frame the feminist concept of "gender" brought into Russia by the Western-oriented intellectual feminists´ groups. The SOMO reinterpret the meaning of the "foreign" feminist concept from the perspective of the grassroots women´s anti-militarist movement and construct the feeling of transnational female solidarity. The movement´s marginalisation in the official political arena is resisted through the management of de-mobilising feelings of frustration and resignation.