Moscow’s Brown Eyes

I’m lovin’ the direction Moscow Through Brown Eyes is taking. Especially with Buster PhD’s meditations on race, immigration, and nationalism in Russia. I love how figures like W. E. B. Du Bois are drawn into the discussion to help us think about how race and racism are now calculated in post-Soviet spaces. On that note, I highly recommend the post “Brown Reconstruction in Moscow?” There, Buster tries to get past the “sensationalism without sense” that inhabits most reporting on race and racial violence in the Russian and Western medias. To get beyond this reductionism, Buster revisits the analytical power of Du Bois’s presentation of the “problem of blackness” in Black Reconstruction.

Buster writes:

How might Du Bois’s vision help us think about present-day Moscow and dislodge the current construction of the problem of the guest-worker? How might we recognize “that dark and vast sea of human labor” that has helped build up this outrageously expensive financial and commercial center? How can we imagine a Moscow that recognizes the two million undocumented workers in the city as “ordinary human beings?”

A story that answers these questions requires more than fly-by-night, sensationalist coverage. Rather, it demands the excavation of Russia’s imperial pasts, a detailed examination of the labor question in the former Soviet Union and the contributions of migrant workers, a serious investigation of the nationalist rhetoric of Russia’s leaders with the failure of these leaders to effectively prosecute racist crimes, and an analysis of the appeal of racist extremism among everyday Russians. Like Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, such an undertaking, done properly, would be a behemoth of theoretical and investigative work. (As such, it’s not a story particularly well-suited for blogging, a medium usually consisting of short posts and largely reliant on links to mainstream media or other privileged, computer-savvy individual bloggers.) But it may well be one of the most important stories of contemporary Moscow (and Russia) that I can imagine.

I couldn’t agree more. (I also fully endorse picking up Siouxsie Mantaray.)