Conversation with Francisco Martinez on his work on the afterlife of Soviet cultural heritage

An interview with Francisco Martínez on the afterlife of Soviet cultural heritage and his book Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia (Winner of the Early Career Scholars Award 2018 of the European Association of Social Anthropologists).


KK: Francisco, what was the original trigger of your book? How did you become interested in the concepts of waste and repair? 

FM: I wanted to understand the afterlives that the Soviet legacy was experiencing in Estonia. Then, I started to pay more attention to repair as a coping mechanism, as a sort of vernacular resource for adapting to radical changes. The idea of repair appeared as a way of working through the past, both empirically and analytically, and with interesting material and generational nuances. For example, while talking to repair workers whose skills had been devaluated in postsocialism, I realised that repairing grants a person dignity. Based on this, my book proposes to extend that approach to Soviet legacies, not for whitening them, but as a way of making legacies available to new generations. The recuperation of wasted legacies sets the bases for epistemic repair, making the past available in a different way.

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