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The Image Of "The Other" In The Social Consciousness Of The Citizens (Based On A Sociological Research Of International Relarions In Perm)

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 31-12-2010
Мир России. 2004.  Т. 13. № 2. С. 43-65. 
Тематический раздел:
Former social institutions are crashing now, so people need a different kind of social bearing. Their need for social identification has been forming spontaneously, first of all, on the ethnical basis. Identification with an ethnic or a national group provides people with a necessary feeling of connection with somebody of the same or related origin. Getting to know national myths is a method people use to adapt to a new dynamic, open and conflict reality, an opportunity to reconcile, a way to reveal noble, not routine, means in daily behavior. National myths can be used by citizens as a decoder of the surrounding social world. The mentioned-above sociological research centers around the problem of international relations in Perm. We selected a quota sample of 946 people which fully reflected the ethnic, age and gender structure of the city population. We conducted the research at country houses in the second half of June of 2000 using the standard face-to-face interview method. It is quite a difficult task to explore the image world of citizens. Here we have to deal with the collective unconscious and mental depths formed by tradition, social and personal experience, unclear and unstable emotional experience. The collective unconscious is biased. It evaluates and labels. The research was designed to reveal the sociocultural essence of international relations of the citizens: the image of “the other”, ethnic self-appraisal, the readiness for international contacts, the ability to understand and accept different behavior patterns. A person distinguishes himself or herself from “the other” and credits both with certain qualities. Our interviewees were supposed to name these qualities as well as those which, from their point of view, fully characterize certain nationalities. The respondents were offered open-ended, not structured, questions. This made the survey and the evaluation procedures much more complicated, but at the same time gave us a chance to reconstitute the existing national myths. Evaluation of personal qualities of different national groups. The citizens imparted ethnic groups with antroph-amorphous characteristics, attributing individual traits to the group conscious and behavior. The collective conscious of the citizens contains positive images of the following ethnic groups: the Russians, the Komi-Permyaks, the Udmurts, the Ukrainians, and the Uzbeks. This scale reflects the deepest level of social self-conscious, where judgments are made on the basis of unreflexed feelings of likes and dislikes of certain nationalities (nationalities in general, not separate representatives). Evaluation of the status (intelligence) of different national groups. The citizens express an opinion that ethnic groups possess not only a soul, but also intelligence. Recognizing the fact that a certain person or a national group possesses “intelligence” means recognizing a relatively high status this person or group holds if not in real life, then, at least, in social mythology. In fact, “intelligence” is just a different name for a high social or economic status. The so-called stupidity is the sign of poor social and economic achievements, lower than those of the silent city majority. It is interesting to note that only Russians, Germans and Jews feature a positive difference in the comparison of “intelligence” and “stupidity” of different nationalities. The Russians identify themselves as intelligent, “an older brother must be more intelligent than a younger one”. The Germans and the Jews are “successful” nations, according to the social mythology. Evaluation of professional qualities of different national groups. Now let’s take a look at economic traits, attributed by the citizens to different nationalities. In their self-conscious, the Russian citizens attribute economic merits to other nationalities. Their judgments reveal the national economic inferiority complex – stated in other words, lack of business traditions, economic freedom and rationality – which is quite widespread in daily verbal practices. The back effect of this complex is alienation from the national groups with economic superiority traits. Some nations are accused of nationalism, but this may be considered a modified form of alienation. How national images are formed. We have been generally talking about national images consolidated in the city culture, but we haven’t mentioned yet the sources of such judgments. In theory, the Russians as the dominating nation here – 85% of Perm population, the same in the sample population – are supposed to be “setting the pitch”. We proved this suggestion through the use of some additional techniques. In the self-conscious of other national groups the image of the Russians is influenced by self-appraisal of the latter, but at the same time certain independence of critical judgments is preserved. Note that the Russians are attributed with varied professional qualities, but attributed personal qualities are practically the same. In general, the Russians are described as friendly, kind and open-hearted, but professionally poor. National minorities tend to treat the Russians as “nice neighbors”. The Russians attribute national minorities with “positive personal qualities” (kindness, friendliness, simplicity, hospitality) and “positive professional qualities” (diligence) much rarer than the minorities themselves. It is curious that the image of the Jews and the Germans is quite different from others. Perm citizens attribute them with more neutral professional and “cultural” qualities. The research revealed the existence of boundaries between different ethnic groups of Perm. These boundaries are open and permeable but still they exist. The known alienation of ethnic groups in a big city shows in the existence of the national mythology and settled stereotypes (how people see other nations). Each citizen has certain images of the ethnic world around him. It concerns, first of all, the “closeness” of other nations. So Slavic nations – the Belarussians, the Ukrainians – are the closest for the Russian population of Perm. This stereotype is very strong because there are actually no personal contacts with representatives of these nationalities. So the source of such stereotypes is TV, historical tradition and educational system which emphasize the commonality of fate, culture and religion. The image of “close” nations consists of qualities, many of which are characteristic of the Russians. But still it is not the question of a full identification of the national groups, because other nations make less positive references than the Russians. The Turks and the Finno-Ugrs are the second “closest” nations. They have been living in the Ural region for many years. Of course, not everybody considers them to be “close” nations. That’s why it is more relevant to be talking about neighborly, a peaceful, though not fully integrated coexistence. We failed to reveal a clear and consistent image of other nations in the collective conscious of the citizens. The qualities attributed to them are split up, multiple and unclear, depending on different combinations. And the relations themselves are diverse and complicated. In Perm the national mythology and personal experience are constantly clashing in numerous business and personal contacts. They clash but still preserve their identity. Due to that, a citizen, accusing everybody and everything of nationalism, greed and selfishness is willing to marry his daughter to a man of a different national background and to work for a multinational company without realizing the contradictoriness and duality of his position. Maybe the cause of that are undeveloped social instincts in their primitive, ethnic form. So in his relationships with other people a citizen follows the simplest pattern, without taking into account their social characteristics and status, on the basis of personal likes and dislikes or from the point of worthiness or uselessness. In this situation social and ethnic myths are not called for. They live in a different cultural space, which differs greatly from everyday life in judgments, narration and practices of transferring cultural traditions. On the whole, we can state that national tensity in the city is not heightened. It is centered in the economic field. The ethnic factor plays a specific role in the world of hard competition. Some citizens are agitated with extreme economic activity of certain national groups, attributing them with thrift, national selfishness and clanness (separation). Sometimes the Russians are trying to find their identity in the faces of representatives of other, dissimilar national groups. And here the mass media as well as folk traditions of city culture play a very important role. On this base the “Russian myth” is formed. It consists of pieces of the Russian classical literature, Russian movie images and modern forms of oral folk art (jokes, anecdotes). The main issue here is incongruity between aspirations of the national minorities to assimilate the Russian city culture and the position of the Russian majority which is not ready yet to accept such claims.
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