Anticommunist Imaginary (ACLA 2020)
While most cultural theorists, since Edward Said, have been attuned to the dangers of Orientalism, they are less conscious of the long-term othering strategies that originated in the Cold War that cast socialism as an unnatural force, communists as sexual predators, and the socialist state as an unflinchingly totalitarian, destructive presence in any region. In both literature and mass culture, anti-socialist and by extension, anti-statist tropes are pervasive on both sides of the political spectrum and frame both the cultural production and its reception by critics. The anticommunist imaginary, we contend, spans a range of positions, from a virulent anticommunist stance to more subtle, yet pervasive forms of bias, such as capitalist realism (Mark Fisher), left realism (Jodi Dean), and left wing melancholia (Enzo Traverso). The seminar aims to map the anticommunist imaginary by exploring its origins, its lasting legacy, its repertoire of stock images and stories, as well as its limits. Papers can examine a wide range of topics and cultural/literary landscapes, among them the American anticommunist imaginary, dissident writing from the communist world, post-socialist fiction, comparative anticommunisms, echoes of the Cold War in the Russia Gate affair or the Venezuela crisis, anticommunist orientalism, and many more.