Altering States: Post-Soviet Paradoxes of Identity and Difference
Division I; Writing-Intensive; Difference, Power, and Equity;
Cross-listed as SOC248 / GBST247 / RUSS248
Critics and apologists of Soviet-style socialism alike agree that the Soviet ideology was deeply egalitarian. Putting aside for a moment the very reasonable doubts about how justified this perception actually was, it is still worth asking, how did people who lived in the world in which differences in rank, class, gender or ethnicity were not supposed to matter, make sense of their postsocialist condition, one in which new forms of difference emerged, and old ones assumed greater prominence? And how do these encounters with difference impact current events, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the persistent tensions between East and West Germans? This tutorial will examine new dilemmas through ethnographic studies and documentary films that aim to capture in real time the process of articulating and grappling with newly discovered divides. We will focus especially closely on Russia, but will also read studies on East Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland and Ukraine. This course fulfills the DPE requirement by exploring comparatively the ways in which people in different countries made sense of the social, cultural and political heterogeneity of the postsocialist condition.
The Class: Type: tutorial
Requirements/Evaluation: 5-page paper every other week, comments on the partner's paper in alternate weeks
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Enrollment Preference: Anthropology, Sociology, and Russian majors
Distributions: Division I; Writing-Intensive; Difference, Power, and Equity;
Distribution Notes: meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under SOC or GBST; meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under RUSS DPE: This course fulfills the requirement by teaching the students to identify and interrogate processes of social differentiation and exclusion as they take place across Russia and Eastern Europe. Apart from exploring comparatively the ways in which people in the region made sense of the social, cultural, and political heterogeneity of the postsocialist condition, we will also train ourselves to identify parallels, as well as differences, between responses to the social and economic uncertainty ushered by the fall of socialism, and the discontents triggered by similar conditions closer to home.