"A ritual civil execution": public shaming meetings in the post-Stalin Soviet Union

Stephenson, Svetlana (2021) "A ritual civil execution": public shaming meetings in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. Journal of Applied Social Theory, 1 (3). pp. 112-133. ISSN 2398-5836

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Abstract / Description

The resurgence of public shaming campaigns in modern societies has important antecedents in the relatively recent past. The paper addresses the practice of prorabotka, a ritual of public shaming that took place in schools, universities and workplaces in the Soviet Union. Prorabotka, whose genealogy can be traced to early post-revolutionary years, was aimed at the reinforcement of social norms challenged by political and moral deviance. Public shaming was applied to a wide range of behaviours, including ideological and moral deviations such as public drunkenness, marital infidelity by party members, planned emigration to Israel, etc. The paper applies a theoretical framework that builds on Durkheimian and neo-Durkheimian approaches to ritual, Garfinkel’s outline of the theory of public degradation ceremonies, and Zizek’s account of split law. It shows that, in addition to an official script, the meetings had a supplementary script that unleashed a jouissance of punitiveness but also generalised guilt and fear in the face of collective justice. It addresses the consequences of shaming for the perpetrators and members of the group. It is based on oral history interviews with individuals who participated in the meetings as denouncers, witnesses or perpetrators.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: informal law; emotionalisation; public shaming; citizens’ justice; everyday life in the Soviet Union; character assassination
Subjects: 300 Social sciences > 320 Political science
300 Social sciences > 340 Law
Department: School of Social Sciences (to June 2021)
School of Social Sciences and Professions
Depositing User: Svetlana Stephenson
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2021 09:17
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2021 09:17
URI: http://repository.londonmet.ac.uk/id/eprint/6512

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