Translating Memories Online Speaker Series Spring 2022

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22 February 2022 16.00 (EET)
Mitja Velikonja, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Poetry after Srebrenica? – A Cultural Reflection on the Yugoslav 1980s

5 April 2022 16.00 (EET)
Madina Tlostanova, Linköping University, Sweden
(De)coloniality of Memory: Intersections of Colonial and Totalitarian Trajectories and Creative Memory Work As a Way To “Re-existence”

10 May 2022 16.00 (EET)
Simon Weppel, University of Cambridge, UK
“Stepping Over the Threshold of Time”: The Rise of Heritage in the Brezhnev-Era Soviet Union

Mitja Velikonja
Poetry after Srebrenica? – A Cultural Reflection on the Yugoslav 1980s

How are we to understand the Yugoslav 1980s today, how are we to write about them, paint them, record or put them into poetry, music or the stage, to sing about them; how are we to value them after the bloody tale of the 1990s? Can we still write poetry on the last Yugoslav decade after what happened in Srebrenica, Vukovar, Ahmići, Sarajevo, and the hundreds other killing fields, or is this too barbaric as well? My presentation analyses the various types of cultural and artistic reflection – i.e. the construction and the perception – upon the 1980s in socialist Yugoslavia as they have developed from its ashes since 1991. As a cultural scientist of post-Yugoslavia – and not as a historian of Yugoslavia –  I will not speak about the historical 1980s but about their contemporary cultural representations; about the artistic construction and deconstruction of that decade; about the way images of the recent past are formed in today’s art and culture. My ambition is not doing historiographical trips from the post-Yugoslav present to the Yugoslav 1980s, but posing culturological questions about how the Yugoslav 1980s are present on the today’s artistic and wider cultural map.
Mitja Velikonja is a Professor for Cultural Studies and head of Center for Cultural and Religious Studies at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Main areas of his research include contemporary Central-European and Balkan political ideologies, subcultures and graffiti culture, collective memory and post-socialist nostalgia. His last monographs are The Chosen Few – Aesthetics and Ideology in Football-Fan Graffiti and Street Art (Doppelhouse Press, 2021), Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe (Routledge, 2020, awarded as one of the best achievements of University of Ljubljana in the year 2020, already translated into Serbian and in translation in Slovenian, Macedonian and Albanian), Rock’n’Retro – New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Slovenian Music (Sophia, 2013), Titostalgia – A Study of Nostalgia for Josip Broz (Peace Institute, Ljubljana, 2008), Eurosis – A Critique of the New Eurocentrism (Peace Institute, Ljubljana, 2005) and Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina (TAMU Press, 2003). He is co-author of the book Celestial Yugoslavia: Interaction of Political Mythologies and Popular Culture (2012), and co-editor and co-author of books Post-Yugoslavia – New Cultural and Political Perspectives (2014) and Yugoslavia From A Historical Perspective (2017). For his achievements he received four national and one international award (Erasmus EuroMedia Award by European Society for Education and Communication, 2008). He was a full-time visiting professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow (2002 and 2003), at Columbia University in New York (2009 and 2014), at University of Rijeka (2015), at New York Institute in St. Petersburg (2015 and 2016), at Yale University (2020), Fulbright visiting researcher in Philadelphia (2004/2005), and visiting researcher at The Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (2012) and at the Remarque Institute of the New York University (2018).

Madina Tlostanova
(De)coloniality of Memory: Intersections of Colonial and Totalitarian Trajectories and Creative Memory Work As a Way To “Re-existence”

Сoloniality of memory is one of the effective and inherently violent instruments of modernity as a repressive onto-epistemic system that effectively controls people through imposing specifically constructed and legitimized collective memory models and historical narratives and excluding or disqualifying all other forms and ways to remember. Ultimately this process may lead to extreme forms of zombification and biopolitical control disciplining and supressing the most personal, affective, and corporeal forms of memory. Societies that went through multiple and entangled experiences of politically, existentially, aesthetically, and epistemically repressive regimes such as apartheid, dictatorship, totalitarianism, genocide, ethnic cleansing and other forms of modern/colonial unfreedom, tend to come up with complex and often conflicting responses to the wiped out or severely edited memory syndrome in their post-dependence phases where they are faced with a necessity to reimagine and remake their worlds anew through processes of “re-existence”. The post-Soviet/postcolonial struggles with (de)coloniality of memory are an interesting example of such positionality. In my talk I will focus on several fictional and artistic instances of (de)coloniality of memory coming from the post-Soviet space.
Madina Tlostanova is a decolonial thinker and fiction writer, professor of postcolonial feminisms at Linköping University (Sweden). Her research interests focus on decolonial thought, particularly in its aesthetic, existential and epistemic manifestations, feminisms of the Global South, postsocialist human condition, fiction and art, critical future inquiries and critical interventions into complexity, crisis, and change. Her most recent books include What Does it Mean to be Post-Soviet? Decolonial Art from the Ruins of the Soviet Empire (Duke University Press, 2018), A new Political Imagination, Making the Case (co-authored with Tony Fry, Routledge, 2020), Decoloniality of Knowledge, Being and Sensing (Centre of Contemporary Culture Tselinny, Kazakhstan, 2020) and the co-edited volume Postcolonial and Postsocialist Dialogues. Intersections, Opacities, Challenges in Feminist Theorizing and Practice (co-edited with Redi Koobak and Suruchi Thapar-Björkert, Routledge, 2021). Currently she is working on an experimental mixed media book “Fictions of Unsettlement”.

Simon Weppel
“Stepping Over the Threshold of Time”: The Rise of Heritage in the Brezhnev-Era Soviet Union
In this paper, I will demonstrate what I argue is the development of a ‘heritage temporality’ in the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union. On the basis of a discourse analysis of visitor guidebooks, tourist brochures, and newspaper articles relating to three Lenin museums, I trace a shift in how past, present, and future are discussed in late Soviet society.
Until the mid-1960s, these highly ideologically charged sites emphasise their educational and agitational purpose, describing themselves as ‘sources of inspiration’ for the builders of communism. In the late 1960s and 1970s, however, a gradual change takes place: guidebooks invoke the future ever more rarely, instead inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the historic surroundings of days gone by. Increasingly, the museums favour the restoration and preservation of an idealised past over the continuation of their erstwhile future-oriented discourses.
My paper will theorise this phenomenon and place it into the wider cultural and historical context of the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union, drawing on Reinhart Koselleck’s dichotomy of the ‘space of experience’ and ‘horizon of expectation’ in order to investigate the preconditions for the rise of heritage as a cultural phenomenon – both in the Soviet Union and globally.
Simon Weppel is a PhD Candidate and Cambridge Trust Scholar at the Cambridge Heritage Research Centre, University of Cambridge. He holds a BA from the Free University Berlin, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and has spent time at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, and SciencesPo, Paris. His doctoral project studies the development of heritage preservation in the later Soviet Union.

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