Cultivating a Normal Life

Jarrett Zigon

in “HIV Is God's Blessing”

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780520267626
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948327 | DOI:
Cultivating a Normal Life

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This chapter reviews the different and contrasting notions of a normal person in the Russian Orthodox Church and the neoliberal perspective. Family and close friends are essential for one to engage in intimate conversation and sociality (obshchenie), which is important to a normal life. Within the neoliberal perspective, a normal person has responsibility to those within the social network not to disrupt the stability and comfort of their normal lives. However, this network has been reduced to, on the one hand, one's family and a few very close friends and, on the other hand, one's workplace and those within it. In today's consumer- and market-driven Russia a normal person is primarily responsible for the economic well being of the family through a demonstrated responsibility to the workplace and a work ethic of honesty and hard work. A normal life during the late Soviet period demanded a moral responsibility not to cause potential political harm to others. In today's Russia, the moral responsibility of a normal life entails supporting the very economic survival of one's family, as well as the emotional sociality between family members and intimate friends. Thus, both neoliberalism and Russian Orthodoxy emphasize the importance of enacting responsibility within the hetero-normative family, the labor market, and within the individualized body as the marker of health, illness, and potential suffering and as the locus of a self-disciplined social and emotional person.

Keywords: normal person; neoliberal perspective; social network; Russian orthodoxy; hetero-normative family

Chapter.  4131 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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