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SubalterNation: On Postcolonial Histories of Socialism.  Add To Calendar

Serguei Oushakine, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Anthropology, Princeton University
  • Date(s): Thursday, 1/16 6:00 PM to Thursday, 1/16 9:00 PM
  • Campus Address: Institute for the Humanities, Lower Level, Stevenson Hall
  • Address: 701 S Morgan St
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Contact: Linda Vavra
  • Email: huminst@uic.edu
  • Website: http://huminst.las.uic.edu
  • Phone: 312-996-6354

The talk follows closely public debates associated with three historical locations in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. One is the Khatyn' memorial built near Minsk in the 1960s to commemorate the victims of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). Another one is the killing site Kuropaty. Discovered in 1988, Kuropaty hides bodies of people executed in 1937-1941. The final site is an amusement park, Stalin's Line, built near the capital in 2005. Intense public discussions about the history and significance of these locations have had a considerable impact on the process of national identification in Belarus.

By analyzing these debates, I suggest that this practice of historical iterability allows us to perceive postsocialism not only as an operation of dismantling the key configurations that have been produced by seven decades of Soviet way of life, but also as a form of an intense postcolonial investment in these structures, conventions, and forms; an investment that makes the very critique of these historical forms and their originary narratives possible. 

By linking postsocialism and postcolonialism, I want to draw attention to issues and dynamics of a process that has been somewhat overshadowed by discourses of the nation-building in newly independent countries.  The debates associated with the three historical sites will help to reveal a trend that appears to be common for many post-Soviet countries, namely, an uneasy process of a retroactive creation of the colonial subjectivity. Placeholders of sorts, these three locations demonstrate that reclaiming a place is often indistinguishable from being beholden by this place.

Serguei Oushakine
, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Anthropology, Princeton University. In his book, The patriotism of Despair: Nation, War, and Loss in Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009), he trace the importance of experienced or imagined traumas for creating postsocialist identities and meanings. His other publications reflect his interest in the cultural representations of identities that emerge at the intersection of gender, nation, and law. His new areas of research focus on postcolonial authoritarianism in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, the practices of late Soviet consumption, the political mobilization of popular culture in Soviet Russia, and socialist nostalgia.

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