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Catching up

January 8, 2012

Happy new year! I’ve been away for longer than I planned and am only now catching up on what I missed, including an end-of-2011 post from Lisa Hayden Espenschade and Jamie Olson’s biography of Timur Kibirov (plus a definition of literature by Kibirov). To wander for a moment out of my topic as well as my century, I’ll also mention an article by Stephen Holmes, who argues that Putin’s Russia is not an orderly “vertical power structure” of neo-Soviet authoritarianism, but chaos in which different corrupt governmental organizations trip over each other or battle for turf, with no central command or guiding purpose beyond acquiring wealth (via The Monkey Cage).

Elsewhere, Sean Guillory links to his review (pdf) of Igal Halfin’s Red Autobiographies (2010), about “the autobiographies Party candidates and members wrote to Party admission and purge commissions and the process by which the commissions scrutinized the texts in the early 1920s.” Halfin describes how prospective party members from the peasantry, the urban working class, and the intelligentsia created (were constrained to create) different narratives. The author apparently considers the ways the autobiographical texts create a Soviet subject while claiming that we have no way to see beyond that “subject” in the words to a real “self” behind them: “There is simply no domain outside of theater where real interactions [take] place, where true words are spoken.” Throughout the review it feels like the social sciences and humanities are sizing each other up and not talking past each other.

There’s much more I want to respond to from JO, Sarah J. Young, Russian Dinosaur, and no doubt others, but I’ve realized I can’t fit it all into one post – more soon.

Besides the internet, I missed the 2012 AATSEEL conference in (or near?) Seattle, which wraps up today (program here). If anyone reading this post was there and saw some exciting papers, feel free to name them in the comments and I’ll link to the abstracts.

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