On January, 14th LCWA will host Dr. Steven Lee,
Associate Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley
Author of The Ethnic Avant-Garde: Minority Cultures and World Revolution, to present the lecture, “Beyond Interference: Soviet and Russian Lessons for
Russian interference in the 2016 elections included the manipulation of U.S. identity politics: for instance, fake social media accounts promoted rallies both for and against the Black Lives Matter movement, apparently with the intent of exacerbating social discord. The new Cold War here merges with our new culture wars.
This circumstance finds a hopeful precedent from the old Cold War, when Jim Crow was a favorite topic for Soviet propaganda, which indirectly led to U.S. civil rights reform. Building on this precedent, my talk focuses on how Soviet and Russian discourses on race, ethnicity, and nationality might open new ways of conceptualizing multiculturalism here in the U.S. I’ll be arguing that in the Soviet Union, one’s identity as a minority subject could be simultaneously essential yet irrelevant, eternal yet absent—a phenomenon I trace back to both official nationalities policy and avant-gardist performance. The result was a layered, estranged approach to identity, one that possibly contributed to the USSR’s collapse but which also provides, I think, a useful complement to contemporary U.S. discourses of “otherness” and “intersectionality.”
As a case in point, I will then discuss the half-Korean, half-Russian rock star Viktor Tsoi (the Kurt Cobain of late socialism), the difficulty of ascribing any fixed identity to him, and his 1990 visit to the Sundance Film Festival.
Co-sponsored by the Russian Studies Program and European Studies Program.