A Case Study
Although I compare within the case, this is a case study of Russia. This choice reflects my commitment to “thick description” (Geertz 1973) and the sense that often the social science that matters most are those studies that tell good stories, paying attention to historical circumstances and particularities (Tilly 1984). As this is a story whose lead roles are played by the former superpower rivals, it illuminates the still unsure post—Cold War world order, in two political environments, where, on the surface, gender concerns are not cast as important.
The study examines a crucial period in Russia, from the tremendous democratic opportunity at the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 up through Presi-
dent Putin’s consolidation of a semi-authoritarian regime. In 2005, Putin created a Public Chamber, a controlled forum of only those NGOs he saw as legitimate, to substitute for the articulation of citizen demands of a free civil society. In 2006, he signed into law regulation of NGOs, limiting foreign funding and allowing NGOs to be closed down if they threaten the country’s “sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, national unity and originality, cultural heritage and national interests.” These limitations on civil society, perhaps not as bad in practice as they might seem to many Americans, came after Putin had circumscribed the mass media (with state ownership of television channels and with a policy of not protecting journalists), institutionalized more regional control (through making governors appointed by the president), and quelled political opposition (by imprisoning his greatest electoral threat through what appears to be arbitrary rule enforcement).
In some ways, Russia is a “critical case,” a case where existing theory would suggest global feminism is least likely to take root. As I elaborate in chapter 2, at the end of Soviet communism, there were few existing women’s organizations, a widespread rejection of feminism, and a resurgence of nationalism that would make intervention likely to backfire. In the concluding chapter, I look at the particularities of Russia and situate it within other cases in order to explore what this Russian story suggests about other global feminist foreign interventions.