Natalia RoudakovaNatalia Roudakova

Assistant Professor in Communication

Affiliated Faculty Program for the Study of Religion
Affiliated Faculty Program for Russian and Soviet Studies


Ph.D. in Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University (2007)


Natalia Roudakova’s work bridges cultural anthropology, on the one hand, and political communication and comparative media studies, on the other. Although there is some tradition of ethnography in journalism studies, anthropologists have not played much of a role in the field of political communication; Roudakova’s research addresses that gap. More specifically, she is interested in refining the analytical tools for understanding journalism in illiberal and non-democratic settings beyond the dichotomy between democracy and dictatorship; and the one-dimensional view of journalism in those settings as a vehicle for either indoctrination or resistance. Roudakova’s research also explores media’s role in maintaining and destabilizing social orders, leading to political transformation and change. She has carried out fieldwork among political journalists in various regions of today’s Russia, and historical work on the social contract between the media, the state, and citizens in the Soviet Union. Other research interests include journalism ethics and professionalism beyond the Western world; generation of dissent and consent in democratic and non-democratic settings; cultural production of states; and religion, radio, and citizenship. Broader research interests include comparative analysis of media systems, ethnographic research in communication, and anthropology of liberalism and secularism.

Roudakova's monograph, "Losing Pravda: Russia's Encounter with Freedom of the Press" is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2017. In this work combining ethnography, media analysis, and moral and political theory, Roudakova reveals the spectacular professional unraveling of journalism in Russia over the past twenty-five years, and the society-wide effect it has had. The book argues that, contrary to widespread assumptions, late Soviet-era journalists shared a unique cultural contract with their audiences that centered on a truth-telling ethic that guided their work. The economic upheaval after the fall of communism led not so much to greater press freedom as to the sharp de-professionalization of journalists, who found themselves having to monetize their truth-seeking skills. This culminated in a perception of journalists as political prostitutes, or members of the “second oldest profession,” as they are known in Russia today. Roudakova argues that this cultural shift fundamentally eroded the society-wide value of truth-seeking and telling as a meaningful activity, making way for Putinism.  


  • Roudakova, Natalia (in press). Losing Pravda: Russia's Encounter with Freedom of the Press. Forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Read the Introduction to the book here
  • Roudakova, Natalia (2012) "Comparing Processes: Media, 'Transitions', and Historical Change" in Hallin, D. and P. Mancini (eds) Comparing Media Systems: Beyond the Western World. Cambridge University Press.
  • Roudakova, Natalia (2009) “Post-Soviet Journalism as ‘Prostitution’: Russia’s Reactions to Anna Politkovskaya’s Murder.” Political Communication, 26 (4): 412-429
  • Roudakova, Natalia. (2008) “Media-Political Clientelism: Lessons from Anthropology,” Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 41-59. 


Natalia Roudakova has taught courses in cultural, political, and media anthropology, with a focus on post-socialist societies, on religion and democracy, and on media ethics. At UC San Diego, Roudakova has taught courses on European media systems, on media in authoritarian societies, on concepts of freedom, on the public sphere, and on media and "good life." At the graduate level, she has taught the core course in History of Communication Research and a course on Designing Research Proposals.