Pitching- “The Queer & Now: Documenting Modern Russian Queer Internet Discourse”

So, y’all know me at this point- I’m much more casual when I write stuff regardless of what the thing is so that’s what we’re gonna be doing here. Let’s do this kindergarten style- what, why, how, who (we already know when and where). Also, limitations, but that didn’t fit into the cute little reference.


This project is seeking to document Queer Russian discourse from the modern internet age, around 2010 through now.


Three simple reasons:

  1. Modern Queer discourse is less valued and therefore less archived due to its reputation for rehashing old discourse (which in my opinion does not make it less valuable, rehashed or not).
  2. Very few resources documenting Queer discourse from non-Latinate languages exist, particularly for modern discourse.
  3. Russian Queer people are in explicit danger, and Russian’s access to the wider internet is now limited, so accessing information about what is happening in Russia and what is going on in the Queer community there at all is very difficult and even dangerous.


Using ARCH, a tool available to me via pilot testing currently, we can scrape website data in any format and create a collection of the archived sites using the tool.

Now, actually locating sites where Russian Queer discourse is happening is a hurdle of its own that will involve talking to Russians (probably just some of my friends, let’s be real). I’m also open to archiving things that are Russian language from primarily English-language platforms like Twitter, but the problem that comes with that is that the people having those discussions may not be native to Russia themselves, and it’s harder to figure that out from somewhere that’s not a .ru site. Furthermore, we may have to use a VPN and/or the TOR browser to access some of these sites, as well as protect our safety in doing what is essentially Queer journalism on a country that is an active threat to those people.

So, basically: find the sites, have ARCH scrape them and put them in a collection, then we make a cute little website to showcase everything.

This project also has the potential to be ongoing, however it may be best to make a collection that’s 2010-2023, and then in future years do 2023-2030 or what have you to separate things out by political events or something, might be easier to watch discourse unfold, etc.


-Ideally, a translator. Yes, I’m a linguist, and theoretically I could do this myself (but it would be hard and time consuming). Yes, I also know other native Russian speakers (who also happen to be linguists), but I can’t bother a bunch of PhD students and professors with this—we are all far too busy.

-Researchers—folks who would go out into the trenches and find whatever niche forum posts from the Russian internet they can, interview people to ask if they know where to find this kind of stuff, and give me those good good URLs. And as before, yes, this could also be me, but I am very tired and I’m just a little guy.

-An archivist—this one would actually have to be me–which I’m honestly stoked about–because I have access to ARCH and training in using it.

-Someone who can make a pretty little website! Again, this one theoretically could also be me, but good god can you imagine me doing this entire project myself??? The masochism of it all!


  1. Wow, safety! Um, yikes! This only occurred to me recently that this may make me a target. Not super excited about that idea, especially since this project would be made completely public. For anyone to find. With my name on it. And all my contact information.
  2. Speaking of safety… we’d have to come up with a way to safeguard identities of the people in these posts. In theory, once we have the collection we can redact names and website details, but that’s a lot of work to be done by hand since it can’t be programmed easily…
  3. Doesn’t this sound like a personal project though???? It really does. Like, it would be hard work, but it doesn’t really feel like it needs a group, and I don’t like thaaaat I want a proper group project!

Uhh that’s all from me folks! Let me know if you’re interested, I guess? An ending! Here is a way to end a post!

7 thoughts on “Pitching- “The Queer & Now: Documenting Modern Russian Queer Internet Discourse”

  1. Elizabeth Szypulski (She/her)

    I love this project idea — I think the work is hugely important, and it seems like you have the technical skills to make it a reality. A few thoughts…

    – This feels huge. How much content do you think you’d need to scrape/categorize/present to make this archive meaningful or at least, a “complete” project for May (though of course, it would be ongoing).

    – I’m curious about how you’re envisioning the research aspect – if this isn’t done by a Russian speaker, do you think it will be possible to verify that what the team is grabbing is 1. Relevant/representative 2. Being scraped correctly? I know Chrome’s auto translate feature can help researchers out, but I assume that euphemism, coded language, etc. would play a part in some of this social media, given the legal and safety issues.

    – As much as I think collecting this speech is important, I am concerned about the safety aspect of this project, as well as the ethics of making this information easier to find (especially if finding it does involve decoding in-group language, etc.). I’m less concerned about safety for the team here than for the Russian posters. Given the recently-expanded anti-LGBTQ laws in Russia, I worry that we might be archiving content that the original authors might be trying to delete or hide. I’m not naive enough to think the Kremlin isn’t already scraping a lot of this, so I’m not necessarily worried about showing the government something it doesn’t already know, but I can still imagine situations in which gathering this information could cause harm. As you pointed out, redacting names and site addresses might have to be done manually, and I fear that a team of mainly non-native speakers might miss key information.

    With all that said, would you be open to making the archive less publicly accessible, at least for the moment? For example, could the archive be more like a vault that is opened after a certain period of time — maybe as little as 2-3 years — so that any details related to names, organizing, strategy, etc., are less likely to have an immediate impact on safety?

    1. Theodore Manning

      Thanks fam!
      In terms of making a ‘complete’ archive, archives can be really any size. I think starting small is fine- anything we could find could be helpful. I don’t have a goal size necessarily, although I do think for this project to be worthwhile in terms of coursework it would need to be larger.
      As far as accuracy is concerned- don’t worry about it, I actually read Cyrillic and know Russian, just not fluently, but being a linguist I have a lot of skills and resources for figuring things out at a native level- it’s just time consuming.
      I really appreciate your comments and suggestions for safety… I don’t have an answer for that, but I like the suggestion.

  2. Maria F. Buitrago (she/hers)

    I think this project is super powerful and important. And, honestly, I also think it’s completely fine that this feels like a personal project, the fact that is personal and meaningful to you does not mean it cannot be meaningful for others, even for non-Russian speakers, in ways in which maybe we can yet foreseen. Which I think comes from the fact of being a project centered on Queer perspectives and the current political moment. Here’s my POV:

    1. From a theoretical perspective, I would like to have a more concrete idea/definition on what do you consider or what classifies as “Queer discourse” you might, of course, have already this figure out but I think it’s super important for the group working on this to have a mutual base understanding on what Queer means in the Russian context. My suspicion is that there must be cultural and language boundaries that make that discourse Queer in ways in which is not the same for say Latinx Queer discourse or Anglo Queer discourse (feel free to disagree!). I hope you can tell us more about this and if there’s any reference or other projects you have seen that have done this and if so, what categories do they use? what communities do they work with? how do they treat sensible data, names, places, and any other information people might want to conceal from their identities?
    2. I also think there’s an important language barrier that cannot be ignored for those working on the project with no Russian knowledge whatsoever…but at the same time this might be an opportunity to de-center English as the primary language for scholarly digital research. Its a challenge!
    3. I agree with Elizabeth in terms of having a clear goal for the scope of the project, even if its small, how small? I think your project will benefit from a project management role and a grant proposal writer, two people that might secure any funds and can also make sure everyone’s on track!
    4. Miaoling said once last semester, that it would be interesting and ethical to build an archive where you need permission to access, so, in that sense, I also think for the safety of the people involve here the idea of a “vault” as Elizabeth mentioned could be super interesting!
    Can’t wait to hear more about this!

    1. Theodore Daniel Manning (Han/Hanet/Hanen) Post author

      Thanks for the feedback, Maria! I appreciate the reminder of Miaoling’s idea… that’s definitely something to consider, and the suggestion of project managers etc roles is very helpful.

      To respond to the first part, though, the difficult part about doing this research is there are no projects similar to this to compare with. I know, I was as shocked as you are. I’m doing some digging to see if maybe I’m just being hyperspecific in some of my terms but it seems as though this is the first time someone has tried to do something like this. But to address what discourse is in this case- yes, there are definitely going to be cultural differences there, but my base definition is “discussion of Queer issues”, no matter how that takes place. Whether it’s an art piece that makes a point, a long argument between people on forums, a single tweet, stuff like that.

  3. RC (she/hers)

    Really fascinating to read this proposal! I think I get the overall idea of scope, vision, and needs, and am intrigued. As I am reading the safety concerns, I am wondering if scraping and sharing all these websites might defeat their hard-to-find nature/ purpose of them (to protect the community). Curious if you have any perspective on this concern.

  4. Kristy Leonardatos (She/Her)

    Interesting project proposal, Teddy! Agreed re safety for all involved. Yesterday I read an article about Egyptian police using dating apps to hunt LGBT people which led me to do a quick search about Russia and dating apps. Including 3 sites that may be of interest for your research.

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