Call for Papers: “Between History and Past: Soviet Legacy as the Traumatic Object of Contemporary Russian Culture,” Deadline: June 1

Call for Papers


Workshop at the University of Sheffield (UK), 30-31 October 2010

The workshop will address the relationship between contemporary Russian
culture and Russia’s Soviet past, the relationship characterized by profound
ambiguity. Almost two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union Russian
society and culture is increasingly dependent on its Soviet heritage, which
is upheld and rejected, often simultaneously, in practically all fields of
symbolic production, from state ideology to architecture, from elitist
literature to mass culture. The aim of the workshop is to navigate the array
of discourses in order to trace the ways in which Soviet past functions not
as a self-contained object, however complex and ambiguous, but rather as a
space of projections, displacements and symbolizations, as a symptom whose
affective charge betrays the urgency of its underlying problematic.

The main impetus behind the workshop is to look at the Soviet past through
the traumatic contradictions of the present. Contemporary Russian culture is
suspended between the unstable historical narrative of the new nation’s
emergence from the ruins of the USSR and the legacy of Soviet culture, whose
models, revolutionary or Stalinist, no longer work. The resultant
impossibility of symbolic structuration creates a tangible traumatic void at
the core of contemporary Russian culture which its subjects try to fill with
their inconsistent, emotional, and ideologically charged interventions.
Whether praised or vilified, likened to the present of contrasted with it,
the Soviet past is influenced by Russia’s current predicament in no lesser
degree than it itself influences Russia’s present.

We invite papers from an open variety of disciplines that will be neither
purely historical (i.e., tracing the actual historical transformation of
Soviet culture into contemporary Russian one) nor purely immanent (i.e.,
approaching the Soviet past as a fantasmatic image pertaining to the Russian
present) but rather address the gap between historical genealogies and
immanent perceptions, the gap conditioned by the traumatic impossibility to
merge narratives of Russian history and the fantasmatic visions of the
Soviet past.

The workshop will be coordinated with Russian Aviation and Space: Technology
and Cultural Imagination workshop that will be held at the University of
Leeds, UK, on 29 October 2010 (for more details please visit Sheffield and Leeds are within a short
train ride from each other.

Please, send your abstracts /300 words/ accompanied by a CV to the workshop
organizers, Evgeny Dobrenko and Andrey Shcherbenok, at
by 1 June 2010.

Artspeaks: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at the MCA, May 19

The cultural historian Svetlana Boym once called the monumental art installations of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov “memory museums,” remarking that each of these works “turns into a refuge from exile.”

Ilya Kabakov is a Russian-American conceptual artist of Jewish origin, born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. He worked for thirty years in Moscow, from the 1950s until the late 1980s and now lives and works on Long Island with his wife, Emilia. Throughout his forty-year plus career, Kabakov has produced a wide range of paintings, drawings, installations, and theoretical texts—not to mention extensive memoirs that track his life from his childhood to the early 1980s. In recent years, the Kabakovs have created installations that evoke the visual culture of the Soviet Union, though this theme has never been the exclusive focus of their work.

By using fictional artist biographies, many inspired by his own experiences, Kabakov has examined the birth and death of the Soviet Union as a metaphor for the ambitions and failures of modernity. In the Soviet experience, Kabakov discovers elements common to every modern society, and in so doing seeks to materialize the psychological landscapes of urban secular life. Rather than depicting the Soviet Union exclusively as a failed political and social project, the Kabakovs’ installations treat the USSR as one of the many utopian undertakings of the twentieth century. By reexamining historical narratives, while simultaneously interjecting personal perspectives, the Kabakovs demonstrate that every project, whether important or trivial, public or private, destructive or emancipatory, must wrestle with the temptations of an authoritarian will to power.

A retrospective of their work together will be followed by a conversation with Matthew Jesse Jackson, Professor of Art History and Visual Arts (Univ. of Chicago).

For more information:

*Ticket Prices

Single event tickets:
$20—general public
$5 – students with valid ID

For tickets, call 773.702.8080

Time: Wednesday, May 19 7:30pm

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue