Disowned History: Soviet Pasts in the Afterlives of Empire


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Anthropology and Slavic Languages and Literatures


For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science during academic year 2014-2015


This project explores forms of historical imagination that started taking shape in postcommunist Eurasia. Using archival, visual and ethnographic materials collected in Minsk, Belarus and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, it shows how post-utopian societies lose any interest in the appeal of futurity and focus instead on finding a better historical past. Narratives of new sovereignties are structured as alternatives to histories of recent occupations; the dispossession of previously foundational myths of origin is couched in the language of decolonization. Bringing together architecture, contemporary film and photography, politics of knowledge and accounts of daily life, the book examines postcolonial practices that “provincialize” and decenter mainstream (and usually Russia-focused) accounts of the massive Soviet experiment that radically changed social, cultural, and political landscape of Eurasia during the twentieth century.