Gender and Governance International Conference at the University of Helsinki

On March 28 – 29 the Gender and Governance International Conference was held in Helsinki, organized by a joint effort of the Aleksanteri Institute (University of Helsinki) and the Research group ‘Comparative Study of the Situation of Women and Men in Public Authorities’ from the Faculty of Social Sciences of Higher School of Economics (Moscow). Members and Heads of the HSE study group, as well as researchers and professors from the University of Helsinki, presented at the event. The central theme of the event was gender equality and its relationship with democratic gender-sensitive governance.

The first day of the conference began with opening speeches of the main organizers and inspirers of the event: Marianna Muravyeva, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki, Valeria Utkina, Senior Lecturer of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the HSE, and Olga Isupova, Associate Professor of the Institute of Demography of the HSE.

The program of the first day of the conference included several discussions, among which were titled: Gender Policies and Gender Mainstreaming in the Situation of Gender Backlash, Gender and Public Administration, and Work-Life Balance and Gender Policy. Marianna Muravyeva presented her report on Gender (In)Sensitive Governance in Contemporary Russia. Topical issues were raised in relation to regulation of public and private spheres. The public sphere was initially considered male, while the private was female. The case of Duma deputies using liberal discourses of protecting the private sphere from the influence of the state in decriminalizing domestic violence in Russia was of particular interest. Alexander Kondakov, a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Aleksanteri Institute in Helsinki, told about sexual sovereignty in Russia from a historical perspective, looking at violations of rights with relation to LGBT representatives. Students, professors, and lecturers from HSE also presented their studies. Such issues as women’s choice of police work, roles of Russian civil servants in shaping the conservative turn, factors influencing women’s career development in the Russian civil service, as well as their discrimination in this area in Russia and Ghana were touched on. Each of the presentations was accompanied by a fruitful discussion among participants.

On the second day of the conference, a round table was organized in order to discuss main causes of gender inequality in contemporary Russia and specific initiatives that could be implemented in this area. Participants identified the following factors as obstacle to achieving gender equality: feminization of poverty, male ignorance about gender equality, gender stereotypes, lack of awareness about women’s movements, a double burden, and no family-friendly policies. According to participants, in order to improve the current situation, expert knowledge should be used in state administration, small groups and diversity should be supported, the influence of informal institutes such as religion should be weakened, gender-sensitive education must be implemented in schools and universities, and public discourses and gender legislation should be improved.

During the conference, the participants of the HSE research group managed to feel like a full-fledged part of the University of Helsinki community. Students visited different university campuses, study spaces, and libraries, communicated with local students and lecturers and even attended a public talk. In addition, students were provided with an active program of exploring the city of Helsinki, which included walking tours, visiting museums and the island of Suomenlinna. As a result, the city did not leave anyone indifferent. Those who visited the Finnish capital for the first time along with those already familiar with the city were equally content with their encounters of Helsinki.

All conference participants spoke very positively about the event. Below are some of the quotes from speakers.

“What I liked a lot is that the conference was organized in a seminar-discussion format. In my opinion, the possibility of participating in the discussion and expressing different points of view is always a big plus, as it gives additional cognitive motivation.”

(Ekaterina Chemankova, Bachelor Student of the Faculty of Social Sciences at HSE and the member of the research group)

“In just three days I was able to feel like a full-fledged part of the University of Helsinki academic community. I am grateful for the comfortable and respectful atmosphere that was created for us, not too experienced students, in which it was a pure pleasure to give reports and participate in the discussion.”

(Alina Efimova, Bachelor Student of the Faculty of Social Sciences at HSE and the member of the research group)

“The opportunity to present my work, discussions with researchers from another university, interesting connections, informative lectures – I discovered all of the following during this trip. Now I want to participate more in the organization of such events in my university.”

(Nastya Minnikova, Master Student of the Faculty of Social Sciences at HSE and the member of the research group)

“Such events contribute to the development of cross-cultural values ​​and critical thinking among students. They offer though on analyzing situations not just from different perspectives, but from different points of view – not limiting individuals to the mentality of their country.”

(Natalia Kotrikova, Bachelor Student of the Faculty of Social Sciences at HSE and the member of the research group)

All of the HSE students participated in the conference express their deep gratitude to Valeria Utkina, Olga Isupova, Marianna Muravyova and Bradley Reynolds for organizing such an exciting and useful educational trip. We look forward to further cooperation of the HSE Research group ‘Comparative Study of the Situation of Women and Men in Public Authorities’ and the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki.

Space, Ice, and Artificial Intelligence: the Cosmolegal in the Arctic and outer space

The following post, written by  Dr. Elena Cirkovic (HSE St. Petersburg/Faculty of Law, UH), outlines a recent presentation she offered on her current research project. The talk was given on 2.13.2019 at an Aleksanteri Institute working seminar.

(www.quora.comWhat-would-you-do-in-an-apocalypse-of-space-polar-bears)

“I will put some trust in preceding navigators—there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power, which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man.”

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus -Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley (1817)

International law currently appears to function in tension with a variety of processes, to which it cannot easily respond. This article focuses on the current environmental degradation in outer space and in the Arctic (here analyzed as part of the broader Earth System), in contrast to increased commercialization of the two spaces. In addition, technological advances and the uses of autonomous operations further facilitate the current and/or future possibilities for the commercialization processes.

This topic requires an interdisciplinary approach, which will address not only the public-private regulatory aspects, but also the disciplinary limits of law in addressing the Arctic and outer space. It proposes a principle to encompass the process through which the law would recognize and include the agency of the non-human: the cosmolegal. The principle would help define an interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approach to law. Instead of aiming to give the complete picture of world dynamics, cosmolegality will have to leave a free parameter or some disjunction for future contingencies and uncertainties on Earth and in outer space. A recasting of the legal discipline, which would address its ontological leaks, would have a direct effect on future lawmaking.

The argument for cosmolegality takes into account the novel changes in perceptions of spatiality and agency on Earth and outer spacetime caused by the following three situations. First, the Earth System has been responding to human action and climate change in its own and unpredictable ways. The Arctic sea ice reached its 2018 minimum on September 23, once again below the 1981-2010 average. Since satellites began tracking Arctic sea ice nearly 40 years ago, we’ve now seen the 12 lowest Arctic sea ice minimums all in the last 12 years.[1] In June 2017, Science published a paper with the title “Massive blow-out craters formed by hydrate-controlled methane expulsion from the Arctic seafloor”.[2] The research team found evidence of large craters embedded within methane-leaking subglacial sediments in the Barents Sea, Norway. However, this phenomenon has been also taking place in the Eastern Siberia’s defrosting tundra. There is no climate model that can currently respond to this. The Sediments in the East Siberian Arctic shelf could further trigger climate warming.

The release of CH4 into Arctic waters and the atmosphere, which was heretofore trapped under the now receding ice sheets, threatens to accelerate the pace of climate change. They proposed that the thinning of the ice sheet at the end of recent glacial cycles decreased the pressure on pockets of hydrates buried in the seafloor, resulting in explosive blowouts. This created the giant craters and released large quantities of sedimentary methane (CH4) into the water above. This means that upon ice sheet retreat, CH4 from this hydrate reservoir concentrated in massive mounds before being abruptly released to form craters. The authors of the study propose that these processes were likely widespread across past glaciated petroleum zones and that they also provide an analog for the potential future destabilization of sub-glacial gas hydrate reservoirs beneath contemporary ice sheets.[3] However, the retreating ice also allows for state and private commercial interests in the Arctic areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJs), which can further impact global warming. This is of great significance for the Arctic States, including the Russian Federation. Domestic legislation however, differs widely. This is the ‘Arctic paradox’[4] of independent reactions of the Earth System[5] due to global warming, as well as the human interest in commercialization.[6]

Second, the orbital environment is also subject to rapid degradation due to the human-made space debris.[7] The accumulating debris in the orbital environment is partly already a consequence of the commercial use of telecommunications in space.[8] The ‘The Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space’, known as the Outer Space Treaty (OST) regime, was formed prior to the new knowledge of geophysical-technological interaction that creates the space debris problem. This article will address the increasing proposals for commercialization of the outer space and the potential for the mining of celestial bodies. It argues that these proposals again create a paradox in relation to the growing problems induced by climate change on Earth, as well as the increasing problem of human-made orbital debris.

Third, the role of autonomous Artificial Intelligence (AI), and specialized autonomous machine learning is advancing further and/or future access to both, the deep-sea and outer space. This demonstrates how state and private interests are driven by new technologies, and are simultaneously benefiting from and further contributing to climate change. State capacity to control an area with technology, has played a vital role in the conquest of final frontiers.[9] Robotic and autonomous technologies have the similar potential in the outer space and deep-sea contexts.

The earthly or orbital environmental concerns, however, can conflict with the ongoing economic, political, and strategic interests of states and extractive industries. Private actors, and more specifically, the extractive industries pose the question of sovereign state access and encroachments into new spaces beyond national jurisdiction and the relevance of contemporary international law. This article analyses together the cases of the Arctic and the outer space because they are both subject to the current state-extractive industry promotion of a ‘rush’ for resources in newly accessible spaces.

Ultimately, the cosmolegal proposes legal change not only through new laws in the disruptive novel space-time contexts but also through recognition and inclusion of the agency of the non-human. To reiterate, the main objective of this research is a proposal for a new ontology of law through an interdisciplinary reconceptualization. Cosmolegality leaves a free parameter for future contingencies on Earth and in outer space, by indicating that there is always a coefficient of friction that changes over time and requires long-term thinking and learning about the world.

[1] The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/

[2] K. Andreassen et. al., ‘Massive blow-out craters formed by hydrate-controlled methane expulsion from the Arctic seafloor’, 2017, Science 6341, at 948.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Lassa Heininen

[5] Earth System

[6] Andreassen et al

[7] L. Viikari, The Environmental Element in Space Law. Assessing the Present and Charting the Future (2007).

[8] Ibid.

[9] D. R. Headrick, The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics 1851-1945 (1991).

Are Disciplinary Cannons Still Immune to Gender History?

(Hill 2019)

In our recent guest lecture (16.01.2019), Darryl B. Hill, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, discussed research stemming from his recent publication from the Journal of Research in Gender Studies, “Androcentrism and the Great Man Narrative in Psychology Textbooks: The Case of Ivan Pavlov” (2019).

The lecture and preceding discussion looked at the existence of androcentric narratives in the disciplinary history of Psychology in American psychological textbooks. By surveying contemporary American psychology textbooks and investigating how the Russian Psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, was presented, Hill argued that there is a tendency to perpetuate a ‘great man narrative’, privileging male figures in the history and cannon of Psychology. He similarly surveyed Russian Psychology textbooks, beginning in the 1950’s, and was able to corroborate this argument.

Hill presented his case by arguing that some of Pavlov’s scientific breakthroughs on conditioning and involuntary reflexes, which won him the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, were due in large part to the work of female scientists, not Pavlov. Hill continued to paint a wider picture of Pavlov’s lab in Russia as one of a kind, immense in its size, often being referred to as a ‘factory’ in mnemonic accounts. Within this context of a multitude of scientific thinkers and with the direction of archival sources, Hill puts forward the argument that female participation in Pavlov’s larger scientific movement is often underrepresented, if not ignored.

The proceeding conversation focused on the idea that women being equally written into history may be influenced by culture. Hill mentioned in his presentation that for the majority of the Soviet period, ¾ of doctors were women, while in the US this was closer to 1/4. This then raised thoughts about how practice influences cultural perceptions of gender, and thus how the memory of academic disciplines is written to appease these cultural conceptions. Though Hill presented that Russian psychology textbooks had similar narratives of androcentrism, participants of the lecture who grew up in the Soviet Union offered the counter point that many women were present in Soviet school lessons (For a broader discussion see: Novikova & Muravyeva 2014).

From a mnemonic perspective, this raised an interesting point of how textbooks as a particular cultural product may have a tendency to levitate toward simplification and popularization of histories to coincide with how these narratives already exist in the collective memory. Hill acknowledged this point, stating that like all history, psychology and the recantations of the history of psychology are limited by time and place. As such, Hill’s work shows that the history of different disciplines could greatly benefit from an investigation of their cannons from the perspective of gender. This may offer new perspectives on not only our perceptions of the past, but also disciplinary understandings of how gender and sexuality influenced the environments in which scientific thought developed.

Bibliography

Hill, Darryl B. “Androcentrism and the Great Man Narrative in Psychology Textbooks: The Case of Ivan Pavlov,” Journal of Research in Gender Studies. 9(1)(2019): 9–37.

Novikova, Natalia & Muravyeva, Marianna (eds.). Women’s History in Russia: (Re)Establishing the Field.(Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014).

Gay American Dream?

(Novitskaya 2019)

Moving abroad is an experience that can sometimes revel uncertain paths. For some people, such a move is structured by possibilities of eventual return. What if one leaves her home for good? What other structures come into play when people flee their countries looking for a safer place? Law is one of these structures. People may flee from hostile legal environment in their countries of origin and look for a better legal protection in new destinations. This is the case of LGBTQ asylum seekers from post-Soviet states heading towards a ‘dream future’ in New York City.

In our recent guest lecture (9.01.2019), Alexandra Novitskaya, a PhD candidate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Stony Brook University, SUNY and a visiting scholar at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, New York University, introduced her ongoing research project. Novitskaya’s work focuses on ethnographic research of the Russian-speaking LGBTQ migrant community in the US. Since 2015, she has conducted over 20 interviews with Russian-speaking LBGTQ asylum seekers from various post-Soviet countries, comparing the narratives of immigrant experiences derived from their oral testimonies.

Novitskaya placed her work within the context of the ‘Gay Propaganda Law’ in Russia, introduced by the Russian Duma in 2013. Various academic and activist studies registered growth of violence against LGBTQ populations in Russia after 2013 (Kondakov 2017HRW 2014). Novitskaya subsequently argued that the ‘Gay Propaganda Law’ created an environment where anyone who did not fit the dominant narrative of Russian ‘traditional values’ began to be ostracized from society. Growing violence against the LGBTQ community in Russia has also purportedly lead to an increased exodus, and what Novitskaya’s research in New York proposes as an increase in asylum seekers in the US.  These claims are also proposed by Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, though corresponding statistics cannot directly be validated by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). That being said, there has been a continually increasing number in asylum applications in the US since 2014 (RFE/RL 2018).

(RFE/RL 2018)

One of the interesting findings that Novitskaya presented was the idea of a ‘gay American dream’, which many of her interviewees alluded to or commented on directly in their narratives. Novitskaya argued that this image of America as a gay friendly paradise may have been influenced by the rise of homo-nationalism conveyed by Hillary Clinton during her time as Secretary of State, as well as the Obama Presidency. This period of homo-nationalism in American domestic and foreign politics was characterized by increased funding for LGBTQ support abroad. Novitskaya argued that American homo-nationalism only incorporated the ‘gay American dream’ into already narrowly defined life narratives that American society associates with achieving success, utilizing the positive liberal image associated with LGBTQ rights for political points. Regardless, Novitskaya highlighted the increased public presence of the Russian speaking LGBTQ communities in the U.S., specifically RUSA LGBT – Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association in NYC, Boston, Chicago, and other large urban centers.

Novitskaya argued that many of her interviewees continued to have faith in America even while the Trump Administration remains unapologetically anti-immigration and anti-LGBTQ. Regardless of this populist turn in American politics, Novitskaya’s research participants continued to profess faith in the U.S. as a state based on the rule of law and checks and balances, considering Trump’s exclusive nationalism only temporary.

In the discussion that followed Novitskaya’s presentation, ideas were presented steaming from migrant studies literature, considering why many of these Russian asylum seekers had such a positive vision of America and the gay American dream. One participant commented that in the literature, there is an argument stating that regardless of how hard life in a new country may be, migrants are unlikely to return to their country of origin because that would be admitting failure in their quest to build a new life. Additionally, this may also lead to the perceptions of viewing the power of the American legal system through rose tinted glasses. Thus, the presentation left many open contemplations of which imagined communities Russian speaking LGBTQ asylum seekers participate in, and what America subsequently comes to signify for these communities.

In sum, the first 2019 lecture in the series New Perspective on Russia and Eurasia offered interesting thought and continued cross-Atlantic discussion on gender, migration, Law, and Russia in a global context. Follow us on Facebook or look at our events page for future events.

Bibliography

Anderson, Benedict (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism.

Human Rights Watch (2014, December). License to Harm: Violence and Harassment against LGBT People and Activists in Russia, 2014. Human Rights Watch. Available from: https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/12/15/license-harm/violence-and-harassment-against-lgbt-people-and-activists-russia#. Accessed 14.01.2019.

Kondakov A. (2017). Prestuplenija na pochve nenavisti protiv LGBT v Rossii [Hate Crime against LGBT People in Russia]. St. Petersburg, Russia: The Centre for Independent Social Research.

Schreck, C. (2018, May). Russian Asylum Applications in U.S. Hit 24-Year Record. Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. Available from: https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-asylum-applications-in-u-s-hit-24-year-record/29204843.html-. Accessed 11.01.2019.

Development of Russian Law XI: Concluding Thoughts

Access to Justice in Eurasia: From Regional to Global, 11th Development of Russian Law Conference

Molodyko 2018)

The 11th annual Development of Russian Law Conference marks the continued development of one of the only annual international gatherings of experts on Russian Law. The conference, held in Helsinki on November 19-20 this year, assembled a variety of experts of different disciplinary backgrounds, including Legal Studies, Social Anthropology, Sociology, Social Science and History. They covered a wide range of themes, such as human rights, business, neo-liberal theory and the interaction of political and legal cultures. Even with the regional and thematic focus on ‘access to justice’ in Russian and Eurasia, the 11th annual Development of Russian Law Conference truly fostered an interdisciplinary cross pollination of academic thought, continuing to show the potential for ongoing growth and cooperation.

Access to justice has become an important issue in many justice systems around the world. Access to justice enables individuals to protect themselves against infringements on their rights, to remedy civil wrongs, to hold executive power accountable and to defend themselves in criminal proceedings. The popular image of the Russian judicial system is dominated by two contradictory narratives. One emphasizes its dysfunctional elements, focusing on the public’s distrust of the courts. This narrative delights in presenting high-profile cases in which the outcomes are blatantly dictated by the desires of the Kremlin as representative. The other looks more at the day-to-day reality of the courts and stresses the burden judges carry, caused by the avalanche of cases brought before them. There is a logical inconsistency to the two images. Remarkably, both have more than a kernel of truth to them. To a considerable extent, they feed on one another. Overworked and exhausted Russian judges make mistakes that contribute to low public esteem for courts. Yet court administrators continue to push judges to absorb ever-greater numbers of cases as a way of proving the value of courts. Among other things, e-justice has been seen by the administration as an effective remedy against backlog and inability to provide efficient access to justice. Similar narratives are applicable to other post-Soviet countries, many of whom have been undergoing a wide range of changes in an attempt to integrate into a variety of regional and global legal orders.

Experts from Russia, Finland, the EU and the US came together to examine how access to justice is provided in a variety contexts, be it neoliberal economics, businesses and consumer rights in Eastern Europe, access to justice for social groups or international frameworks for justice institutions. The main debates focused on the problem of ‘if access to justice constitutes the main component of the rule of law’ or, in other words, what kind of access to justice proves rule of law workable. There is an agreement among experts that in Russia, access to justice is well organized: it is cheap, egalitarian and direct. However, another point of heated discussion is if these factors truly lead to transparency and the actual reception of justice in terms of satisfaction with the justice system. The majority of academics and practitioners are skeptical about the current situation in Russia, pointing out that there are major problems within the justice system and legal profession, continuing to dwell on Soviet institutional heritage. In addition to legal argument, politics plays a crucial role in ‘who can’ and ‘how to’ receive justice, as well as ‘who can’ and ‘how to’ administer it.

In sum, the Development of Russian Law conference produced another year of fruitful conversations and academic synthesis. After eleven years, the project has established itself and now organizes a wider international community of experts. Rooted in the Finnish tradition of expert knowledge of Russia and the interdisciplinary academic prospective of the University of Helsinki, Development of Russian Law has a positive outlook for the future, with the next step of promoting further interaction among scholars of all disciplines.