25–26 October 2013
University of Tampere, Finland
Keynote speaker: Prof. Eliot Borenstein (New York University)
Eliot Borenstein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Russian & Slavic Studies at New York University
Lost Horizons: Russia as an Imaginary Country
As former Soviet citizens were confronted by the transformation of the largely notional internal borders of the USSR into the bureaucratic obstacles to mobility that true borders constitute, the Nineties saw a proliferation of alternative imaginary geographies to compensate for the grievous loss of great superpower status: the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the ruble zone, the near abroad, the common cultural space, the Russian abroad, not to mention the revival of words that had previously been the near-exclusive domain of specialists (россиянин and русскоязычный). The mass media, popular culture, and the every-changing worlds of new media provided comfortable platforms for negotiating an uncomfortable question: what is this country we call home? Where exactly are our stories taking place? This talk examines fictional reimaginings of the Russian past and present that render Russia a form of fantasyland, while also looking at the alternative models of community developing on the Internet (such as the ideal of the "global Russians).
Professor Eliot Borenstein works primarily on twentieth- and twenty-first century Russian literature and culture. His first book and early articles focused on Russian modernism, with a particular attention to questions of sexuality and masculinity. Most of his recent work deals with contemporary Russian popular culture (films, TV, trash fiction, advertising, new religious movements, pornography), postmodernism, and theories of cultural transmission and cultural change. His latest book is Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture. He is currently writing a second volume entitled Catastrophe of the Week: Apocalyptic Entertainment in Post-Soviet Russia.