UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Creative Family Displays Under State Surveillance

29 April 2024, 11:00 am–12:00 pm

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A SSEES Research Student seminar with Olga Doletskaya

This event is free.

Event Information

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Masaryk room
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
16 Taviton street

Stories of Queer Parents in Putin’s Russia

Russia has become an increasingly hostile place for its LGBTQ+ citizens, as Putin’s war on queerness continues. Parents are particularly vulnerable to Russia’s anti-queer legislation, as they constantly risk their children being relinquished by the state for ‘propagating non-traditional sexual relations to minors’ as per the ‘anti-LGBTQ propaganda’ law of 2013. Yet, queer families continue to have and raise children: adopt, access assisted reproduction and surrogacy, and come together to co-parent. In this talk, I will explore how parents navigate displaying and documenting their families in various bureaucratised contexts: healthcare, education, and adoption. I want to focus on the tensions between documenting the family structure, advocating for equal treatment, and the desire to stay hidden for safety reasons. I will discuss various tools of display including naming, narrating, documenting, and physical objects. I will argue that many institutional settings are constructed as sites of state surveillance, and queer parents are particularly attuned to this while calculating risks of family display. I will argue that queer families fight hard to display a version of a family, creatively resisting the hegemonic hetero-patriarchal ideas of who qualifies as parents or a family, but simultaneously concealing some parts of the family that might be too unconventional for the setting.


Olga Doletskaya (she/they) is a PhD Candidate at University College London (UCL), at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES). Their PhD research is on LGBTQ+ parents in Russia, their parenting journeys and migration trajectories. Olga’s current research interests are alternative families, queer kinship, queer history, surrogacy, parenting cultures, queer community media and podcasts. Olga holds an MSc in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh, where her research concerned surrogacy and assisted reproduction.


Image credit: Stock Catalog on Flickr