On August 29, Sarah Phillips, IU professor of anthropology and director of the Russian and East European Institute, was a guest of the online interactive Russian-language seminar Utopian Kruzhok, “Body, Technology, Environment: Disability Studies.” Created and led by Alexandra Kurlenkova, PhD student in Media, Culture and Communication at NYU, the Disability Studies “kruzhok” (circle) introduces participants from
various sectors–non-profits, social services, the arts, and others–to different aspects of disability experience, including the material environment, assistive technology, and independent living. Participants are introduced to crip theory and cutting edge perspectives in disability studies and each participant works on an individual disability-related project. Some examples include the creation of an “accessibility map” of Moscow’s Gorky Park for wheelchair users; creation of guidelines for designing accessible events; and developing a podcast on art and non-normative sexuality.
Phillips was invited to the kruzhok as a guest speaker on August 29 to discuss insights from her research on the disability rights movement in Ukraine and her book Disability and Mobile Citizenship in Postsocialist Ukraine. The conversation focused on disability and the public sphere, and creative strategies people with disabilities use to claim rights and spaces for themselves in contemporary Russia and Ukraine. Other kruzhok sessions have focused on disability and the private sphere; intersections of the body, the environment, and technology; universal design, assistive technology,
and independent living; alternative communication strategies; and crip-networks and rights movements in Russia, the UK, and the US.Alexandra Kurlenkova and other key members of the RSW Disability Studies Working Group—including Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova and Svetlana Borodina–are working with Sarah Phillips to organize the workshop “Disability Studies 3.0: New Approaches to Studying Disability in Russia” at IU’s Europe Gateway in Berlin in May 2021.