Outside of Russia
A graduate conference presented by The Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, The Jewish Studies Program, and Slavics Without Borders
Friday, March 19-20, 2015
University of Pennsylvania
Keynote Speaker: Thomas Lahusen (University of Toronto)
“The Russian sufferer of history, whose appearance in our society, uprooted from among the people, was a historic necessity…These homeless Russian wanderers are wandering still, and the time will be long before they disappear.”
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Speech In honor of Pushkin. (1880)
“A boundary is necessary in order not to get nations confused. With us, for example, a border guard stands there and he knows absolutely that the boundary isn’t a fiction or an emblem, because on one side of it people speak Russian and drink more and on the other they speak non-Russian and drink less.”
– Venedikt Erofeev, Moscow-Petushki. (1970)
The close of the nineteenth century brought the first great wave of emigration out of the Russian Empire, which set in motion a trend that would persist throughout the next hundred years. Nearly every major event in Soviet history—the First World War, the October Revolution, the Second World War, the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union—resulted in millions departing from the country. There is not just one homogenous immigrant experience, and so it is difficult to construct a unified narrative without considering an individual’s age, education, gender, religion, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. Nevertheless, we urge our participants to construct complex narratives of russophone immigrant experience that could be integrated into a broader understanding of global politics, cultural life and transnationalism. “Outside of Russia” sets out to investigate this persistent yet diverse phenomenon of immigration. By focusing on transnational literary and cultural production over the last 100 years, we seek to understand how a range of possible “Russian identities” is fashioned or rejected in various places, times and regimes. Given the critical role of Russia and extraterritorial “Russian” populations in current geopolitics, we want to complicate “Russia” and “Russianness” as coherent geographic, linguistic and ethnic constructs, as well as investigate their peculiar ideological functions within larger global and geopolitical processes. Grounded in Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation-state as an “imagined community” and “cultural artefact,” this conference will examine diasporic cultural and literary production in order to challenge the monolithic exclusivity on which dominant narratives of national identity and collective belonging have been based. Departing from the idealized conception of the Great Russian Culture—what Slezkine jokingly calls the Pushkin Faith—we ask: what can the people, places, and literatures “Outside of Russia” teach us about the multiplicity and hybridity of the “Russian” cultural experience and its global implications?
We are interested in submissions from all disciplines including, but not limited to: literature, history, Jewish studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, culture and media studies, philosophy and critical theory that engage the following topics:
· World Literature: circulation of texts, rethinking of national literatures and inter-cultural exchange
· Russian Jews on three continents: the cases of Israel, Germany, and the United States
· Reconceptualization of borders: new media, film, visual art and the internet
· Émigré writers and artists: Nabokov, Brodsky, Shteyngart, Kaminer, Kaminsky, Stravinsky, etc.
· Diaspora: Russia’s place in the geopolitical and social imaginary
· Accented Cinema: politics, aesthetics, and production of exilic and diasporic filmmaking
· Transnationalism: global flow of people, ideas, texts and products
· Poetry, memoir, the novel: exploration of literary texts and forms in the context of transnational culture
· Postcolonial or post-national: policy, propaganda, and media wars
· You can’t go home again: the notion of home, community, and nostalgia
· Renegotiating Identity: gender, sexuality, and queerness within the immigrant experience
· Migrant networks: mapping affinity, social borderlands, and cultural segregation
· Everything was forever, until it was no more: making sense of post-Soviet Russia and its “outside”
Thomas Lahusen is Distinguished Professor of Eurasian Cultural History at the University of Toronto, where he teaches in the Centre for Comparative Literature and the Department of History. His publications include How Life Writes the Book: Real Socialism and Socialist Realism in Stalin’s Russia (Cornell University Press, 1997) and the co-edited volumes Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s (New Press, 1995) and Socialist Realism without Shores (Duke University Press, 1997). He has co-directed several documentary films, and his current book project is entitled Cinefication: A History of Film Distribution and Exhibition in the Soviet Union.
Please send your 300 word abstracts in the body of an email with “Outside of Russia” submission, LASTNAME” in the title to Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach and Alex Moshkin at email@example.com, by December 15, 2014. Submissions should include the paper title, author’s name, affiliation, and email address.