Tag Archives: Maria Rubin

Russian Rooms, Spring 2014

Russian Rooms is a multimedia project created and curated by Maria Rubin, Visiting International Scholar at Dickinson for the 2012-2014, showing portraits of average Russians in their home environment. You can read about each person and listen to an interview with them (in Russian) while viewing their portraits and the picture of the room they call their own. As discussed an earlier post, all the material created in this project becomes a part of the open teaching resources of the Dickinson Russian department, and is available to anyone else who wishes to use it.

In the spring of 2014 the students in Prof. Alyssa DeBlasio’s Russian translation class (RUSS 334) worked on translating these texts, and completed 15 additional entries. The work was carried out by four students: Chase Philpot, Abby Preston, Peter Sisson, and Maxim Demidov. Prof. DeBlasio reports that all the students did excellent work, and it was hard to pick one to highlight. When pressed, however, she suggested the following narrative, about a Tajik migrant worker in Moscow. The translation is by Abby Preston:

Roma is an illegal immigrant, a migrant worker. He came from Tajikistan to work in Moscow about ten years ago. Since then he has already changed jobs many times, and eventually he ended up in Moscow’s suburbs. In his homeland, Roma worked as a lawyer in a notary’s office and lived with his family in a historic stone house in the center of the city. Here in Russia he has worked as a guard, an administrator, a plant manager, and a construction worker.

Roma has lived in an old building in the greater Moscow area for almost four years, searching for a full-time job, getting acquainted with the locals, and earning money by working part time on the construction of country homes for some “new Russians”—Russians who became very wealthy after the fall of the Soviet Union. Roma would like to marry a Russian woman, but right now he is single. He maintains his room, cooks, and does laundry. He shares his room with a few other countrymen. During the day they work, and at night they sleep.

Photos by Maria Rubin. Source: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/russianrooms/2012/11/01/47/

For more, check out Russian Rooms!

Russian Rooms Project

The Dickinson College Russian Department has launched a new multimedia project, Russian Rooms, which combines photography, text, and audio in an evolving archive with diverse pedagogical applications. The project’s primary aim is to provide a snapshot of contemporary Russian society by building up a series of photographs of Russians and their favorite rooms.

young Russian woman holds pet snailAccording to contemporary Russian philosopher Michael Epstein, the boundaries of private and public space are drawn differently in Russian and in the West: in Russia, private and public are demarcated far more sharply, and private space is warmer and more intense than in the West. This project seeks to test this premise. The site’s creator and curator is Maria Rubin, Visiting International Scholar in Russian. Prof. Rubin takes an intimate, close-up portrait of each subject standing next to or holding an object he or she values. She also takes a picture of the subject’s empty room. The viewer is invited to guess what sort of person inhabits the space, a curiosity which can be satisfied by referring to the portrait, the audio interview, and a transcribed version of the interview.

With support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities grant, Prof. Rubin will spend part of summer 2013 in Russia substantially expanding the archive.

bedroom of Russian woman, with cat, and pictures on walls

In her teaching at Dickinson Prof. Rubin and her colleagues use these photo-audio pairs in various ways. The simplest is a “Guess Who?” game, in which students ask questions to find out who lives in this or that room. Another type of assignment includes listening to the interviews and making presentations about a specific person. Sometimes students are asked to read the texts and write descriptions of the people using grammatical constructions to be learned in a particular lesson. Alyssa DeBlasio, Assistant Professor of Russian, regularly uses Russian Rooms in her senior seminar on translation. There the students translate a simplified transcript of an interview into English, then practice simultaneous translation on the original audio.

old Russian woman in yard with foliage

Plans for the future include incorporating students into the project, particularly students studying abroad in Moscow, who can help conduct the interviews and write up the texts. When Prof. Rubin returns to Moscow she will remain in charge of overseeing the creation of the interviews and  photographs, working from Dickinson’s program headquarters in Moscow, while Prof. DeBlasio will  supervise the expansion and improvement of the site on the Dickinson side. The project will thus form an important bridge between Dickinson’s Russian programs in Carlisle and Moscow.

Russian room interior with wood paneling, low natural lightHaving already explored different ages and genders, Prof. Rubin plans to expand the subject range to include Russian citizens of different ethnic backgrounds, a move that should prove a challenge to notions of public and private space explored so far. Newer inhabitants of Russia, such as Kirghiz and Uzbek guest-workers in Moscow city and in the Moscow county region, and native Muscovite Tatars and Chechens, have quite different notions of personal space, partly inherited from the Islamic house design and architecture of their homelands, but also compelled by the necessity of their sometimes harsh living arrangements in Russia: basements of tower-blocks, in wooden shacks on building-sites, etc. The project, so expanded, will thus allow Russian students all over the world to appreciate the diversity of contemporary Russia’s population, as well as to come to philosophical conclusions about overlapping conceptions of private and public space in one living area. All the material created in this project will become a part of the permanent teaching open resources of the Dickinson Russian department, and anyone else who wishes to use it.