Deirdre Ruscitti Harshman

 Deirdre Harshman

Contact Information

Dept. of History
309 Gregory Hall
810 S Wright
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
View CV

Research Interests

  • Russian History
  • Urban History
  • Everyday Life
  • Modern European History
  • Working Class History
  • Utopian Studies

Research Description

Dissertation: A Space Called Home: Housing and the Construction of the Everyday in Russia

There is no space like home. Although many would consider it a quintessentially private space, the home is anything but, as it has often been used as a site on which conceptions of the domestic and of belonging can be shaped. The process of shaping, defining and controlling the meaning of ‘home’ is born out of a version of modernity, which supposes it is not only possible but also good to exert a standardizing pressure and create a stable and unified vision of the home. In late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russia this desire for standardization ironically resulted in multiple, often conflicting definitions of what the ‘home’ could be. While reformist and revolutionary movements in Russia placed the ‘home’ and related conceptions of belonging at the center of their campaigns to create a new everyday life, they never agreed as to what that everyday life should look like. In short, my dissertation traces how desires for a standardized meaning of ‘home’ were, and are, in constant tension with the messy process by which meaning is actually ascribed by government officials, liberal reformers, landlords, residents, and others.

I explore the meanings of home through an interrogation of the idea of belonging. Belonging implies both having physical access to a home (here called the built environment) and having control over defining what being in that space means (lived environment). My dissertation highlights the ways various people and institutions have put forth, contested and challenged notions of belonging vis-à-vis the home: from what control residents had to shape definitions of their own homes, and of the Russian home space, to how elites and other actors of various political projects attempted to create, enforce and legitimate that same space. These myriad definitions, I argue, constantly built off of, competed with, and challenged each other.


  • MA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013
  • BA, University of Pittsburgh, 2011

Distinctions / Awards

  • First Place, Graduate Student Essay Contest for the Midwest Slavic Association, 2017 (for the article "Cooking Up a New Everyday," as published in Revolutionary Russia)
  • Frederick S. Rodkey Memorial Prize in Russian History, awarded by University of Illinois History Department, 2013


  • Doris G. Quinn Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2017-2018
  • William C. Widenor Teaching Fellowship, awarded through University of Illinois History Department, 2016
  • Davis Graduate Student Travel Grant for the 2015 Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) Annual Conference, 2015
  • Departmental Travel Grant for Pre-Dissertation Research in Moscow, Russia, 2013
  • Dissertation Research Fellowship, for dissertation research in Moscow and Perm’, Russia, awarded through the University of Illinois History Department, 2014-2015
  • Event Grant from Illinois Program from Research in the Humanities for the Fifteenth Annual Graduate Symposium on Women’s and Gender History (primary grant writer), 2013
  • FLAS Fellow (Russian), 2011-2013


  • HIST 381 (Urban History), Fall 2016
  • HIST 141 (Western Civilization to 1660), Spring 2016 (Teaching Assistant)
  • HIST 140 (Western Civilization to 1660, Advanced Composition), Fall 2015 (Teaching Assistant)

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Cooking Up a New Everyday: Communal Kitchens in the Revolutionary Era, 1890-1935 Revolutionary Russia 29 2 2016, p. 211-233. Article link.

Book Contributions

Ruscitti, Deirdre ‘We have not been vermin, nor will we ever be!’: Gender and the Dynamics of Eviction in the Early Soviet Period, 1917-1930 Konstruiruia “sovetskoe”? / Constructing the “Soviet”? ‘We have not been vermin, nor will we ever be!’: Gender and the Dynamics of Eviction in the Early Soviet Period, 1917-1930 St. Petersburg Izdatel’stvo Evropeiskogo universiteta v Sankt-Peterburge 2015.