Daria Volkova


Daria Volkova is a PhD student at the Institute for European Urban Studies at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. She holds Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Urban Studies and Planning from HSE University. Being a researcher at the Laboratory of Urban Sociology at HSE University in Moscow in 2019-2021, she explored the topics of urban and housing policy: residential mobility of citizens, urban expertise and consultancy, urban governance and interrelations between residents and authorities. Alongside her academic career, she participates in projects which promote public and research interest in prefabricated mass housing on post-socialist space and residents activity in such neighborhoods (“ACT|UP” project by Dekabristen e.V. and “Pro Nachbarschaften” by Kompetenzzentrum Großsiedlungen e.V.). In her PhD thesis, supported by a DAAD scholarship, Daria focuses on the system of maintenance of mass housing and explores it on the example of the city of Aktau in Kazakhstan.


Performing adequate housing through practices of maintenance: Ecologies of maintenance in Aktau, Kazakhstan

In many cities across post-socialist space, the withdrawal of the welfare state followed after the collapse of the socialist systems resulted in a massive crisis of city infrastructure, with housing being on the list (Collier, 2011). The residents, pushed between the change of responsibilities and intense neoliberal agenda, had to be involved in housing maintenance much more than they did before. But in many cities, such as Aktau, the infrastructure was already close to deterioration and demands immediate involvement and political decisions to the day. With this background, many actors are redefining, what it means to have adequate housing conditions.

The study explores how different actors navigate through this question. This study is based on two primary assumptions. First, is the importance of negotiations and objects in the making. Through exploring different practices, the focus of the study highlights that housing conditions, like many other things, are negotiable. The borders between what is functional and dysfunctional are adjustable, and most of the time performed through different practices and negotiations (Jacobs and Cairns, 2012). Second, is the role that materiality plays in it. Following the scholars of actor-network theory (Bovet and Strebel, 2019) and developing the concept of ecologies (Dominguez Rubio, 2020), the study tries to show how particular material objects play a crucial role in practices of maintenance, shaping the interactions, limiting, and directing them (Denis and Pontille, 2015).

The study is based on in-depth interviews with the residents of mass housing blocks, experts on city development, authorities, technical specialists, maintenance companies, experts in the repair, and ethnographic observations, supplemented by schemes of maintenance, instructions, and plans. It focuses on the techniques and borders of maintenance, interaction with the material environment outside the apartments, and on shared infrastructure: utilities such as water supply, electricity, as well as staircases, entrances, etc.


Volkova D. (2021) Boutique Consultancy and Personal Trust: Advising on Cities in Moscow. In: Hurl C., Vogelpohl A. (eds) Professional Service Firms and Politics in a Global Era. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-72128-2_5

Volkova D. (2021) Cheloveko-metry, potrebiteli, «pravil'nye» i «nepravil'nye» zhiteli: reprezentatsiya gorozhanina v diskurse o novykh zhilykh rayonakh Moskvy [Resources, Consumers, Non-citizens: Representation of the Citizens in the Discourse of the New Residential Areas in Moscow]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 20, no 3, pp. 215-243 (In Russian). https://doi.org/10.17323/1728-192x-2021-3-215-243


mass housing


actor-network theory