Cinzia Solari

Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

My third-grade teacher asked us to pick a historical figure, pretend they were alive, and imagine the conversation you would have with them. I chose Catherine The Great because she was a woman and her last name was “The Great!” We had an impassioned discussion about why she should have freed the serfs and my love-affair with the region took off.

What support have you received throughout your career (from ASEEES / other societies / federal support / etc.) that has allowed you to advance your scholarship? 

I received support for studying the region in high school where I took a course on “Women in Russia,” and my American History teacher allowed me to write a paper on the Cuban missile crisis—if I promised to write it from a U.S. perspective. As an undergraduate at Brown University, I worked with Abbott Gleason, taking every course he offered and became a history major with a focus on Russian and Eastern Europe. At UC Berkeley I benefited from the Post-Soviet Center, faculty such as Michael Burawoy and Victoria Bonnell, and many FLAS Fellowships that supported my Russian language learning.

What is your current research/work project?

My book, On the Shoulders of Grandmothers: Gender, Migration, and Post-Soviet Nation-state Building (Routledge 2018) is a global ethnography that draws on 160 interviews and two years of fieldwork in three sites (L’viv, Ukraine; Rome, Italy; San Francisco, California) conducted in three languages (Russian, Italian, English). On the Shoulders of Grandmothers uncovers a unique migration of middle-aged women, most grandmothers. Through interviews and ethnographic work with migrant grandmothers in Italy and the United States and their adult children in Ukraine, this book shows that post-Soviet Ukrainian nation-state-building is occurring transnationally. By comparing the experiences of individual migrants in two different transnational social fields—one a post-Soviet exile of individual women to Italy and the other an exodus of families to the United States—I expose the production of new gendered capitalist economics and nationalisms that precariously place Ukraine between Europe and Russia with implications for the global world order.

What does your ASEEES membership mean to you?  How has your involvement with ASEEES helped to further your career?

As a sociologist, I was cautioned not to become an “area studies” person who would likely be marginalized in sociology. Although the American Sociological Association does not recognize the former Soviet Union as a region around which panels and mini-conferences should be formed—although they should—ASEEES has allowed me to connect with those in other disciplines who study the region. Its mere existence gave me the courage to find a way to explain why the daughter of Italian immigrants and a first-generation college student would spend her time studying the FSU. As I explained to undocumented Ukrainian migrants in Rome: My mother left Italy over fifty years-ago to be a domestic worker in the U.S. just  you have now left Ukraine to be a domestic worker in Italy. This gendered global chain of inequality was obvious not only to me but to the participants in my book project who exclaimed, “Now I understand why you want to speak with me!”

What do you believe is the most important impact ASEEES has on the field?

For me, the most important impact ASEEES has on the field is that it allows for an expanded sociological imagination. It reminds sociologists that this region has much to teach us about concerns central to our field such as the production of neoliberal subjects migration, the production of neoliberal subjects, globalization, and the production of nations and nationalisms.