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Article

Sensory Utopia in the Time of “Cultural Revolution”: on Art, Public Space and the Moral Ontology of Class

Growing out of the history of social, psychological, and moral-philosophical delineations of class in former USSR, the tension between two aesthetic/ethical stances was brought to a particularly stark relief, and given a new interpretation, in a recent contestation of public space in a mid-size industrial Russian city. The article explores how the intellectualist and especially the dystopic mode of engagement with the world is juxtaposed with the “sensory utopia” sensibility that asserts not only the givenness but the goodness and the necessity of sensory and emotional embeddedness in one’s physical and social reality, as well as the obligation to strive for and to defend the right to uncomplicated pleasures. Instead of condemning the latter as reactionist recourse to “simpler pasts” growing out of traumas of postsocialism, I suggest exploring it as a phenomenon in its own right, a cultural resource, and an optimistic ground for the development of new urban, civic, and secular identities and collectivities.