(Post-)Soviet Imaginations of the Russian Periphery
During the last hundred years, the Russian periphery has boasted a conflictive relationship with the country’s political and cultural centers. Peripheral regions served as sites of the Gulag industry; they were gravely impacted by centralized modernization and infrastructure projects; and they now stand at the forefront of such global challenges as climate change and Russia’s ambiguous position in a globalized market economy.
This project investigates the rich and historically layered cultural imagination of Russian peripheral spaces. Analyzing influential cultural objects and practices – including literature, film, and blogs – I ask:
1) how do contemporary imaginations of the Russian periphery address and confront its conflictive role in times of globalization; and
2) how are these present-day imaginations shaped by Soviet-era constructions of peripheral spaces?
This project enriches thinking about cultural globalization, first, through an urgent place-based study (Woods 2007) of (post-)Soviet spaces and, second, by explicating the double role of temporalities in imaginations of the periphery. I study, first, how temporal concepts (think transhistorical continuity, decay, nostalgia) structure contemporary debates about peripheries and, second, how earlier discursive formations are reinscribed in contemporary cultural practices that critically interrogate globalization. For this inquiry, the Russian periphery forms a formidable pilot study: having undergone transitions from tsarist empire to Soviet state to globalized market economy, post-Soviet spaces present a revealing testing ground for studying globalization discourses as palimpsests of cultural imaginations.