The Soviet otherwise: affects, margins, and imaginaries in the late Soviet era

Страна: Эстония;

Дедлайн: 30.04.2019



The Soviet otherwise: Affects, margins, and imaginaries in the Late Soviet era.

Tallinn Summer School invites students to Estonia to study cultural-historical processes in the late Soviet Union and to study them “otherwise” – by way of less travelled paths for researching the period from the mid-1950s to the 1990s.

The years after Stalinism and before perestroika have been labelled in various ways – as “thaw” and “stagnation”, as “really existing”, as “mature” or “late” socialism. While studies of the Soviet era have generally moved on from totalitarian and revisionist paradigms towards more complex analytical approaches, the social and cultural complexities and pluralities of the period call for constant innovation in understanding the period. Indeed, the controversies, contingencies and legacies of the last decades of the USSR have resisted a simple overarching theory. Recent interest in the postwar processes of modernization in the West, concern with the prehistories of deregulation and globalisation, but also the ongoing events in Ukraine and the world, and the rise of right-wing movements — all these give us new comparative contexts for revisiting and studying the diverse histories of the Soviet Union.

At the 2019 Tallinn Summer School, we aim to bring together leading scholars and PhD students who are interested in discussing and studying the Soviet otherwise and considering some of its continuing ramifications in the post-Soviet era. We propose to consider the Soviet “otherwise” in at least two ways. First, we invite students to touch upon the unspeakable, silenced, and marginalized in late Soviet society: people, deeds, and thoughts, but also feelings, moods and sensations that caused cultural discomfort or embarrassment, or were taken as insignificant, trivial, or too intimate for inclusion in the sphere of open social discourse. Second, we invite students to explore research methodologies that are still new or little explored in the context of Soviet studies. We look for research agendas that pursue dialogue with various strands of critical theory, including (but not limited to) affect studies, postcolonial studies, new materialism, gender and queer studies. The main focus of the summer school will be on the late Soviet period, but we also welcome approaches to the post-Soviet era that are interested in continuities between the late and the post.

The course aims to address the following questions, among the others:

– How to combine analyses of the bodily, sensate experience of singular lives with the larger discursive structures that define the cultural common ground in a specific era?
– How to critically describe public moods and shared structures of feeling that circulated in late Soviet societies?
– How to explore the late Soviet era in a multidirectional mode, taking into account simultaneously its affective, material, and ideological layers?
– What new perspectives have the material and visual turn opened for the studies of Soviet culture and society?
– How to access and sensitively analyse the delicate spheres of intimacies?
– How to take advantage of different sources, media and genres in order to explore the Soviet society and culture otherwise?
– How to theorize the coexistence of radically different life-worlds in the USSR, while respecting the essential complexity of these differences?
– How to sustain the critical impulse to complicate dichotomies of the era (free-totalitarian, resistance-collaboration, Russian-regional) while nonetheless recognizing the ways that dichotomies sometimes structured local cultural imaginaries?
– How to bring together discussions of Soviet ethnic and regional diversity with the processes unfolding in urban centres such as Moscow and Leningrad?
– How the study of late Socialism might productively find inspiration in research trends elsewhere in the humanities such as histoire croisée, or histories of transfers, emotions, senses, and environment?
– What are the possibilities for “indigenous” theorizing in late Soviet studies?
– How to contend with the national borders in research that have emerged and solidified in Eastern Europe since the end of the USSR?

This course provides students with methodological and practical knowledge on innovative perspectives and approaches to the period of late socialism. It is designed to build up both analytical and practical skills, consisting of an intense series of plenary lectures and seminars and combining macro-level discussions with case studies and student workshops.


The faculty combine local and international scholars from the fields of cultural history, post-colonial studies, the history of Soviet identities, everyday studies, urban studies, media studies, the study of local elites, visual culture studies, and other related fields.

Faculty include Anne Gorsuch (U of British Columbia), Serguei Oushakine (Princeton U) and Jonathan Flatley(Wayne State U) as keynote speakers.

The following international faculty have also confirmed their participation: Rasa Balockaite (Vytautas Magnus U), David Ilmar Beecher (U of California, Berkeley), Natalya Chernyshova (U of Winchester), Alissa Klots (European U at St. Petersburg), Neringa Klumbyte (Miami U), Diane Koenker (UCL SSEES), Aro Velmet (U of Southern California and Oxford U), Zbigniew Wojnowski (U of Roehampton).




The last Tallinn Summer School course on late socialism took place in 2015 and gathered 50 PhD students and 20 academics, including Catriona Kelly, Juliane Fürst and Polly Jones as keynote speakers. See also the 2015 programme and some photos.


The course is designed for PhD students in the Humanities and Social Sciences, but highly motivated and prepared MA students and non-degree scholars are also welcome to apply. Participants should have an upper-intermediate command of English as this will be the language of instruction. Students are expected to do some preparatory reading in order to participate in the seminars and workshops.

Students will have the option of presenting their own research during the student colloquia.

To apply, please register and complete the 300-500 word personal motivation statement. Your personal statement should include the short information of your CV and your research interests. In addition, please provide a title and short description for your student presentation (if applicable).

The registration opens on 01 February 2019 and will close on 30 April 2019. Notices of course admission will be emailed on a rolling basis. Applicants who require an early decision should contact the organisers.


Students should inform the organisers about their wish to acquire credit points while registering in the course. Students are evaluated on pass/fail basis.

– Upon full and active participation in the summer school, together with a student presentation, students can be awarded 3 ECTS.

– Upon full and active participation in the summer school, together with a student presentation and submission of a 3000-word final essay (deadline: 01 Sept 2019), students can be awarded 6 ECTS.


Course attendance is without enrollment fee. Participants will be responsible for their own accommodation and most meals.



Logistics and administrative matters:
Course contents and academic questions:

Course director: Uku Lember.
Organising committee: Uku Lember, Epp Annus, Linda Kaljundi.

Summer school is organised in collaboration with the PUT1218 project “National Intimacies and Cultural Imaginaries: Home and Culture in Late Soviet Era”, Estonian Literature Museum (directed by Epp Annus) and by the (European Union) European Regional Development Fund (Tallinn University’s ASTRA project, TLU TEE – Tallinn University as a promoter of intelligent lifestyle).