Communist Hauntings – Event

Friday, 28th of May 2021 (online) – hosted by the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

Contributors: Lina Dzuverovic, Igor Grubic, Esther Leslie, Francisco Martinez, Michal Murawski, Liene Ozolina, Nada Prlja, Joanna Rajkowska, Magda Schmukalla

The breakdown of Soviet-type communism is usually remembered as a global moment of hopeful change and social improvement. It is less often remembered as a confusing, disorienting and deeply ambiguous time. This event looks at how the Covid 19 pandemic brings back and resuscitates experiences and memories of the 1989/1991 transitions in Central Eastern Europe and globally, and explores how these revived post-communist sentiments and encounters provide powerful material for alternative accounts of the crisis of Europe and global neoliberalism today.

Panel 1 – 10am – 11:30am (GMT): Between Communist and Capitalist Bodies (Joanna Rajkowska, Esther Leslie and Magda Schmukalla)

Panel 1 explores the aesthetics, materiality and epistemology of bodies marked by the collapse and subsequent absence of social and ideological orders. It looks specifically at bodies (human and non-human) that were formed by the ideological void that opened up after the breakdown of communism and that were socialized in the absence of a functioning sociality and political alternative. The speakers will examine how the pandemic revived such unrooted and ghostly bodies, trace their hauntings and reflect on the affects and memories that have been unleashed by their presence.

Panel 2 – 12pm – 1:30pm (GMT): Transitioning Experiments (Igor Grubic, Francisco Martinez and Michal Murawski)

Panel 2 focuses on methodological experiments in the study of postsocialism. It explores the fragility, finitude and decline of post-communist sites and experiences and asks how knowledge from and of these sites can be produced. The panelists will experiment with transgressions of disciplinary boundaries by looking especially on the interconnection, interaction and differences between anthropology and art.

Panel 3 – 3pm – 4:30pm (GMT): Haunting Archives (Lina Dzuverovic, Nada Prlja, Liene Ozolina)

Starting with a description of a personal archive of artistic photographs documenting the impact of Josip Tito’s death on the everyday in communist Yugoslavia, and showing how this archive was retrieved and used to make sense of the overwhelming loss of normality during the pandemic, the last panel explores how archives with artworks from Socialist times can be a productive source for remapping and rearranging common accounts of everyday life and politics in neoliberal Europe.

Image: AdaN (2019). Installation by Nada Prlja. Sizes variable, newspaper intervention, colour photographs, oil paintings, acrylic, pencil. Photo by Andrijana Tilik.

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