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Abstract

This dissertation analyzes the cases of penal prosecution of the symbolic and performative forms of political dissent carried out by politically-motivated artists and activists in 21st century Russia. The central line of this research follows the artistic and legal trajectory of Piotr Pavlenskiy (b.1984), a radical body performer, active on the Russian scene since 2012. All of Pavlenskiy’s performances had direct legal consequences and generated media controversies, transgressing the boundaries of the Russian art world. This thesis treats the legal battles expanding around these cases as eloquent examples of productive convergence between the artistic and the juridical fields. It shows how key legal notions are interrogated and tested by artists who perform in the public sphere; and how the judiciary system responds to these challenges with the set of available legal categories and juridical tools. Unlike other research dedicated to political dissent in Russia, my ethnographic investigation revealed the existence of effective strategies of defense of political cases in the Russian criminal courts. These strategies are developed and implemented by yet ignored socio-professional group: the Russian cause lawyers. The central finding of this thesis is the description of a transfield alliance between the agents of the two fields-namely, the politically-committed artists and their lawyers. This research presents an analysis of the intellectual, strategic and symbolic exchanges between two groups of committed social actors and deals more generally with the recent fundamental ideological transformations of the post-Soviet legality and the subsequent reconfiguration of the legal profession.

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