Peers/strangers/others? The youth of Dagestan in search of group identities
The article discusses the map of youth cultural scenes in Makhachkala, the capital of the Republic of Dagestan, and the third largest city in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation. The uniqueness of Makhachkala’s youth space is associated with the specific geo-political and cultural circumstances of the history of the republic. This is set against the context of post-Soviet transformation: rising unemployment and severe inequality; the revival of Islam; radical changes in the gender regime, the ethnic and religious composition of Dagestanis; and a complicated political agenda involving the struggle with radicalization, and the growth of a terrorist threat. Thus, we consider it important and timely to study the local youth socialities, which exist in such a contradictory context. The research that underpins the article is focused on two opposing youth scenes in Makhachkala: street workout (inscribed in the context of the local patriarchal regime), and the anime community (symbolically resisting the pressure of social “normativity”). Using the theoretical concept of cultural scenes and a case study approach (in-depth interviews, participant observation, community mapping), the potential to categorize youth that are not centred (that is, who are outside the “core” of the capitalist world-system) are critically considered through the opposition between subcultural and mainstream groups. The key aim of the article is to demonstrate the importance of using the construct of the “other” (that which is alien or dangerous) as the main way to define the more subtle (often latent) structure of group identity and cultural capital of a community. This also describes the intra- and inter- group solidarities and the value conflicts of youth in a complex and contradictory local urban environment. In this case, the process of growing up and the socialization of youth involve the selection of different strategies of acceptance and resistance to the social order, the structure of normativity and images of success.