Liminality in Love: Reading Ritualized Institutional Practice as Civil Society in Alina Rudnitskaya's Civil Status

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Cassandra Hartblay


This paper uses Victor Turner's notion of liminal ceremonial spaces and Pierre Bourdieu's Theory of Practice to examine Anna Rudnitskaya's documentary film Civil Status (2005).  The 29 minute film follows the working lives of civil servants in the Saint Petersburg civil registry office, where couples "come to make their love official."  How do individuals use the apparatus of civil society to enact social transformation, and what do practices of citizenship look like in post-Soviet Petersburg?  How do individuals evaluate and respond to the social status of strangers through embodied practice?  How does the presence of the camera serve to further ceremonialize the civil transactions captured in the film?  I engage with Rudnitskaya's film as ethnographic data to address these questions.

Keywords: civil society, marriage, citizenship, habitus, ritual

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