Ph.D., New York University, 2001
Cultural anthropology, consumption, class, gender, postsocialism, Russia, U.S.
Jennifer Patico is a cultural anthropologist who has conducted ethnographic research in both Russia and the United States. Her work centers on how people in urban, capitalist settings use both material commodities and abstracted notions of value and sentiment to understand their social worlds and selves. Her 2008 book, Consumption and Social Change in a Post-Soviet Middle Class (Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press), examined how consumers who were once part of a Soviet professional middle class struggled to get along in a newly marketized – and often disheartening – Russian economy. Specifically, Patico details how St. Petersburg schoolteachers experienced radical consumer shifts and, in the process, came to question and to reimagine their own places in national and global hierarchies of value. Subsequently, she investigated the highly contested phenomenon of Russian-American internet matchmaking, a project for which she conducted fieldwork in St. Petersburg and U.S. cities as well as online. Drawing upon interviews and participant observation in all of these communities, she challenged assumptions frequently made about the industry and its clients by U.S. media and policy-makers, exploring instead the narratives of both female and male participants as well as industry advocates and critics to illuminate conflicting ideologies about gender, wealth, and inequality that emerge such debates.
More recently, Patico has focused her research in the United States and returned to the topic of consumption with a study of children’s food and parenting ideologies in urban Atlanta. Food for children has been cast in popular U.S. discourse as a “crisis” with various proposed solutions, and concern about children’s nutrition is doubly intense since it draws both upon Americans’ widespread tendency to imbue eating with moral meanings and on the anxieties surrounding the near-sacralized work of childrearing in the contemporary United States. Patico argues that children’s food thus offers a valuable opportunity to better understand U.S. models of personal success, standards for parental care, and how these are negotiated under conditions of material and/or temporal strain. Her ethnography, funded by the National Science Foundation (2013-16), investigates the moral anxieties, material constraints, and discursive tropes that interactively frame food provisioning, both within families and at a community level where socioeconomic and other differences may be at play. The study situates children’s nutrition within broader considerations of the cultures of neoliberalism and middle-classness, providing a context in which to analyze closely how everyday material and consumer practices mediate and legitimate widely experienced structural pressures and social inequalities.
At Georgia State, Patico teaches courses in anthropological theory, ethnographic methods, consumption and material culture, and gender, self and emotion. She is an affiliate of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Institute at GSU and is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Anthropology.
Forthcoming “Culturedness, Responsibilty and Self-Help: Contexts of Middle Classness in Postsocialist Russia.” In The Middle Class in Emerging Societies: Consumers, Lifestyles and Markets. Leslie Marsh and Hongmei Li, eds. Routledge University Press.
2013 “The Real World in a Honey Bun.” Gastronomica 13(3): 42-46.
2013 “Commodities.” Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology. Online resource.
2012 “Spinning the Market: The Moral Alchemy of Everyday Talk in Postsocialist Russia.” In Post-Soviet Politics. Steven White and Cerwyn Moore, eds. SAGE. (reprint)
2011 “Toys as Tools of Connection and Disconnection: Ethnographic Perspectives on Children’s Consumption, Inequality, and Contemporary Cultures of Care.” Dialectical Anthropology 35(2): 195-204.
2010 “From Modern Loves to Universal Passions: Ethnographies of Love, Marriage and Globalization.” Identities 17(4): 372-386.
2010 “Kinship and Crisis: The Embedding of Economic Pressures and Gender Ideals
in Postsocialist International Matchmaking.” Slavic Review 69(1): 16-40.
2009 “For Love, Money, or Normalcy: Meanings of Strategy and Sentiment in the Russian-American Matchmaking Industry.” Ethnos 74(3): 307-330.
2009 “Spinning the Market: The Moral Alchemy of Everyday Talk in Postsocialist Russia.” Critique of Anthropology 29(2): 205-224.
2005 “To be Happy in a Mercedes: Culture, Civilization and Transformations of Value in a Postsocialist City.” American Ethnologist 32 (3): 479-496.
2003 “Consuming the West but Becoming Third World: Food Imports and the Experience of Russianness.” Anthropology of East Europe Review Spring 2003 (Volume 21, no. 1), pp. 31-36.
2002 “Chocolate and Cognac: Gift Exchange and the Recognition of Social Worlds in Post-Soviet
Russia.” Ethnos 67(3): 345-368.
2002 “Consumers Exiting Socialism: Ethnographic Perspectives on Daily Life in Post-communist Europe.” (Co-authored with M. Caldwell; introduction to themed issue, not peer reviewed) Ethnos 67(3): 285-294.
2001 “Globalization in the Postsocialist Marketplace: Consumer Readings of Difference and
Development in Urban Russia.” Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, Volume 91, pp. 127-42.
2001 “The Paradoxes of Progress: Globalization and Postsocialist Cultures.” (Co-authored with R. Stryker.) Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, Volume 91, pp. 1-8.
2000 “‘New Russian’ Sightings and the Question of Social Difference in St. Petersburg.” Anthropology of East Europe Review Fall 2000 (Volume 18, no. 2), pp. 73-77.