Dr Margarita Kuleva

I’m Margarita Kuleva, a sociologist of culture. I’m interested in exploring social inequalities in the art world and creative industries mainly in Russia and the UK in order to develop fairer working conditions in the sector. Primarily, I work as an ethnographer to discover the ‘behind the scenes’ of cultural institutions to give greater visibility for the invisible workers of culture. Currently, I’m based at National Research University Higher School of Economics, St-Petersburg, where I work as an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, holding the position of chair of the Department of Design and Contemporary Art. I’m also a fellow of the Centre for German and European Studies and a collaborator with the Centre for Arts, Design and Social Research.

I received my PhD in sociology from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in 2019. My dissertation entailed a comparative study of the careers and professional identities of young cultural workers in visual art sectors in Moscow, St Petersburg and London. Based on more than 70 in-depth interviews, it was one of the first systematic studies on post-Soviet creative labour. Some findings from these studies are presented in recent journal publications, including Cultural Studies (2018) and International Journal of Cultural Studies (2019).

Over the past two years, I have been awarded two research grants from HSE to continue my studies on labour and inequalities in the arts in Russia. The first project, ‘Creative Labour Revisited: a Toolkit for Fair Cultural production in Distinct Institutional Environments’, 2019 draws a deeper comparison between the UK and Russia contexts to explore how institutional factors frame unique modes of cultural production in each case. Since 2020, with Maria Safonova, I have co-led a research group ‘Digital Art History’. The project brings together sociologists, art-historians and designers and aims to write a social history of recent Russian art. The study aspires to give greater voice to less represented groups such as female artists and create new visual methodologies for the dissemination of the results (or, what we call ‘turning the digital turn’).

Outside of this, my scientific interests include the sociology of fashion, visitor studies and youth cultures. As a researcher and curator, I have worked with a number of Russian and international cultural institutions, including Manifesta Biennale, Garage MoCA, Goethe Institute, Street Art Museum, Ural Industrial Biennale and New Holland St. Petersburg.