Tomas A. Matza
ACLS New Faculty Fellow, Cultural Anthropology and Slavic and Eurasian Studies
-- Duke University
In broad terms, my research has addressed the interplay between political-economy, expertise and subjectivity in the period following the Soviet collapse in Russia. My current book project, Subjects of Freedom: Psychologists, Power and Politics in Postsocialist Russia, focuses on newly minted “experts of the soul” in Russia—psychotherapists, coaches, trainers—who have introduced a new attention to “the self” that has been simultaneous with privatization and liberalization. Of particular interest to me is the way that these experts have helped to transform the self into a locus for a class politics, a site of investment and management, as well as a new horizon for imaginative possibilities. I remain interested in the ways that expert practices are forged around moments of crisis and a quest for improvement. In new work I am shifting from a focus on the self to carbon, the chemical element at the center of the politics of climate change. Climate policy work has the potential to reframe understandings of rights, justice, and sovereignty. Yet climate policy has primarily relied upon neoliberal rationalities. Market mechanisms are meant to manage carbon, distribute technical knowledge from north to south, conserve forest, mitigate air quality, and shape development. Set in Russia (permafrost protection; infrastructure development; response to drought and wildfire), this project will investigate the institutional formation and material effects of this specular economy—the carbon market—and how expertise, knowledge and practice, stakeholders and environments coalesce to re-shape environments and livelihoods.