By Maggie Xu, Graduate Student, IU
Dr. Trubina is a professor of social theory and philosophy at the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where she also directs the Center for Global Urbanism. In Academic Year 2022-2023 she is a fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at UNC.
During her visit to IU in February, Dr. Trubina accepted the invitation of Dr. Gardner Bovingdon of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies to teach a meeting of his graduate seminar on Central Eurasian cities. In a presentation titled “Three Perspectives on Destruction,” Dr. Trubina described her own process of intellectual formation, introduced concepts from critical urban geography, and discussed recent urban transformations in Russia.
Dr. Trubina studied philosophy as a start of her academic career, and now works at the intersection of several disciplines: philosophy, social and political theory, urban theory, memory studies, and comparative studies of post-socialism and post-colonialism. She has long sought to broaden the scope of philosophy to embrace the concerns of social science disciplines. In her scholarship on cities she has tried to combine the analytical rigor and foundational curiosity of philosophy with social science’s emphasis on field research and attention to materiality.
Noting that many urbanists focus on planning and construction, Dr. Trubina urged compensatory attention to processes of urban destruction due to the forces of nature, capitalism, and war. She spoke first of the catastrophic destructive blows to the natural landscape of the city from earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Dr. Trubina then turned to economic forces, noting that in prioritizing growth, capitalism has often contributed to the degradation of the environment. Invoking Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction,” Dr. Trubina observed that in order to reap the benefits of new creation, it is necessary that old products, processes, firms, and even entire industries be destroyed, with profound social and political consequences for cities and their inhabitants. Dr. Trubina then turned to the urban destruction caused by war: mass casualties and large-scale population displacements, the destruction of public infrastructure and physical capital, and frequently a catastrophic fall in living standards. Here she discussed the massive destruction caused by the invasion of Ukraine, illustrated with images and statistics.
In the third portion of her talk Dr. Trubina recommended the work of other scholars: David Harvey’s reworking of Schumpeter in his analysis of neo-liberalism’s transformation not just of markets but of social relations, the division of labor, welfare regulations, and ways of life; Steve Malanga’s analysis of how the “feral” American city, Detroit, fell into ruin; Stephen Graham’s study “Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism,” which examines how political violence spreads through the locations, spaces, infrastructure, and symbols of the world’s rapidly increasing urban centers; and Rebecca Solnit’s work on spontaneous community responses to natural disasters such as the Loma Prieta earthquake or Hurricane Katrina.
Students engaged in a lively discussion with Dr. Trubina after her presentation. Topics ranged from the fate of social housing in post-socialist cities, to the Kazakh writer’s Mukhtar Shakhanov’s poetic vision of the fall of Otyrar, to instances in which urban destruction and decay have provided space for new communities and social practices to emerge.
At the end of the seminar, the students and Dr. Bovingdon thanked Dr. Trubina for her excellent presentation, and for providing an inspiring model for young urbanists.