Religions (Dec 2021)

Infrastructural Breaks on the Road from Birth to Death in Contemporary Russia

  • Sergei Mokhov,
  • Anastasia Andreevna Novkunskaya

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 12
p. 1115


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This paper addresses the problem of infrastructural breaks in two systems—the funeral market and maternity care. The authors analytically problematize how dysfunctions in the operation of these infrastructures shape the experiences of funeral and childbirth in contemporary Russia. The authors propose the conceptual model of the ‘rite of passage’, supplemented with the sociology of repair joint with the anthropology of infrastructures. Based on the ethnographic studies of the funeral market and maternity care (2015–2019), the authors uncover multiple infrastructural gaps and challenges that Russian families face while preparing for childbirth and funeral, especially in remote areas of the country. Empirical data of participant observations, in-depth and expert interviews demonstrated that continuous infrastructural failures can be considered to be an integral part of these life-cycle rituals, as both burial and maternity care arrangements never happen smoothly and unproblematically. In conclusion, the authors argue that necessity of “repairing” or patching the infrastructural gaps obtains self-sufficient symbolic meanings that possess ontological features.