2018: Contested Bodies: Identities and Spaces in Post-Soviet Territories

It seems that all of this has not happened to me at all. As if it happened in another life with other people. Another city, another country, completely different people. Maybe, these pictures are actually my past. Something that was taken away from me. Something that I am now forced to forget. Yet, I am not forgetting because this is really a part of me. Maybe even the best part. 
—Serhiy Zhadan, from Voroshilovgrad 
March 15-16, 2018 University of Pennsylvania
What does it mean to be a ‘post-Soviet person’ today? The Soviet Union was created and held together on the premise that the power of class consciousness could create a community that transcends the limitations of ethnicity and language. The events of 1991 shattered this illusion. As the USSR dissolved, newly created states and people across the post-Soviet space were left with the task of figuring out who they were and to what country, body politic, language, and culture they belonged. In the early post-Soviet years, this process was manifested in social violence in the form of armed conflicts in Georgia and Moldova, the expulsion of Russian nationals from Central Asian states, and criminal infighting over the privatization of former Soviet industrial complexes. As time passed, however, it began to seem that the people and states of the region were embarking on an era of peaceful co-existence, built on shared recognition of their common history and present situation in the world. The absence of visas encouraged travel within the region, while organizations like the Customs Union stimulated trade and economic cooperation. Post-Soviet political elites seemed at times to work with one another much better than they did with their European or American colleagues.  
Yet armed conflicts—between Russia and Georgia in 2008, and Russia and Ukraine in 2014—have radically unsettled hopes for further peaceful development of the region. Today, the post-Soviet social space is unstable and contested. This contestation extends to people, nations, cultures, languages, architectural heritages, memories, arts, lands, industries, infrastructures, international relations, social hierarchies, and political systems. It demands a renewed critical examination of the history and reality of the post-Soviet world. What happened to people’s lives after the dissolution of the USSR? How did its sudden collapse affect the cultural sphere, language, and artistic production? How is the Soviet past remembered at the official, popular, and individual levels? What does it mean that many still name this region with reference to a political formation that no longer exists? How might this denomination still be useful, or is this a problematic naming which we need to reinterpret or reorient? Our conference will consider these and other questions. 
The conference program will feature both invited speakers and panels completed from open-call submissions. Our confirmed keynote speakers are:  
Kristen Ghodsee (University of Pennsylvania) 
Serguei Oushakine (Princeton University) 
Ekaterina Sergatskova (Journalist) - cancelled
Olena Chervonik (Art Curator) 
We also invite and welcome contributions from faculty and advanced graduate students from all disciplines including, but not limited to: anthropology, communications, critical theory cultural studies, history, Jewish studies, literature, media studies, philosophy, political science, and sociology that engage with and step beyond following questions: 
Conference organizing committee: Iuliia Skubytska, Kevin Platt, and Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach. 
Conference Schedule
March 15, 2018: Max Kade Center, Room 329-A (3401 Walnut St.)
Opening Remarks and Keynote Presentation (12:45-2.30pm)
Kristen Ghodsee (University of Pennsylvania)
“The Left Side of History: Public Memory and 20th Century State Socialism in Eastern Europe” 
Panel I: Civic Activism (3-4:30pm)
Olena Nikolayenko (Fordham University): “Women on the Maidan: Gender and the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine”   
Janet Elise Johnson (Brooklyn College, CUNY): “The Gender of Informal Politics in Putin’s Russia”  
Olga Kamenchuk, Eric Nisbet (Ohio State University): “The chance for New Russia: How socializing context of RuNet contributes to changing post-Soviet identities among political activists in Russia?”   
Keynote Presentation (5:30pm) Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut Street 
Kateryna Sergatskova (Journalist, Ukraine)
“Jihad Export Service. How Post-Soviet World Became #1 Supplier of Jihadists to the Middle East”  
March 16: Arch Building, Room 108, 3601 Locust Walk
Panel II: Nationalities (10:30-12:00pm)
Laurie Manchester (Arizona State University): “What to Do When Being Soviet is No Longer in Vogue: How Russian Repatriates from China Created their Own Ethnicity Following the Collapse of the Soviet Union” 
Marina Mikhaylova (Temple University): “‘The Outdoor’: Contested Postsocialist Subjects in EU Initiatives” 
Harrison King (University of California, Berkeley): “Geographies of Loss, Narratives of Redemption: Azerbaijan’s Culture of Perpetual War”  
Keynote Presentation (1:00pm-2:30pm)
Olena Chervonik (Philadelphia Museum of Art): “IZOLYATSIA in Exile: Contemporary Art Meets Donetsk National Republic” 
Panel III: Aesthetics (3-4:30pm)
Massimo Balloni (Princeton University): “The Carnivalization of Sovietness in Venia D’rkin’s Songs”  
Epp Annus (Ohio State University): “Aesthetic Sovietness: Vestigial Soviet-era landscapes in the context of Estonia’s high tech dreams”   
Maria Vassileva (Harvard University): “Noone wants to be who he was born to be»: Anxious Men and Joyful Robots in Fyodor Svarovsky”    
Keynote Presentation (5:30pm) Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut Street 
Serguei Oushakine (Princeton University): “Presence without Identification: Creating Postcolonial Archives after Communism.”