Kirill Ospovat

Poor Liza and Russia’s Sentimental Marketplace

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On December 11, 2020, the Jordan Center welcomed Prof. Kirill Ospovat for a talk on links between narrative modes and visions of economy that defined Russian sentimentalism. Through a close reading of Karamzin’s classic Poor Liza (1792), Ospovat will illuminate the constructions of “sentimental commerce” which aligned specific modes of subjectivity and spectatorship with visions of the market, debates on luxury, and analysis of poverty. He is an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of “Terror and Pity: Aleksandr Sumarokov and the Theater of Power in Elizabethan Russia” (2016) and “Pridvornaia slovesnost’. Institut literatury i konstruktsii absoliutizma v Rossii serediny XVIII veka” (2020). His next book will explore the social aspects of Russian sentimental fiction through close readings of Karamzin, Gogol, and Dostoevsky. The talk was introduced by Ilya Kliger, Associate Professor of Russian & Slavic Studies at New York University.

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Kenneth Pinnow

Medical Ethics and the Crisis of the Doctor-Patient Relationship in the Early Soviet Union

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On November 2, 2020, the Jordan Center welcomed Kenneth Pinnow for a talk on the doctor-patient relationship amid the Soviet state’s undertaking of providing universal public health in the 1920s and 1930s. Dr. Pinnow is Professor of History and Global Health Studies at Allegheny College. He currently holds the Henry B. and Patricia Bush Tippie Professorship and recently served as the director of Allegheny’s Global Health Studies Program. He is the author of Lost to the Collective: Suicide and the Promise of Soviet Socialism (Cornell, 2010), and has published on criminology and the social sciences in the early Soviet Union. He is currently researching the history of medical ethics and research in the Soviet Union, with an emphasis on the formative decades of the USSR. The talk was introduced by Yanni Kotsonis, Professor of History and Russian & Slavic Studies at New York University.

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Sergei Eisenstein and Immersion in Nature

Sergei Eisenstein and Immersion in Nature

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On October 23, 2020, the Jordan Center hosted Joan Neuberger, Professor of History at The University of Texas at Austin, for a talk on Soviet filmmaker and theorist Sergei Eisenstein’s 1945 essay, “The Music of Landscape.” By juxtaposing Eisenstein’s cosmology with his contemporaries’ anthropocentric discourses, Neuberger showed how immersion in nature offered Eisenstein new avenues for further developing his ideas about self, art, radical politics, and the productive contradictions of montage. The talk was introduced by Bruce Grant, Professor of Anthropology at New York University.

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Minds and Bodies in the World, or: Learning to Love Dostoevsky

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I’m not one of those American Slavists who came to the study of Russian literature by way of Dostoevsky. For a long time, I wasn’t even particularly interested—I’m afraid that I took the pseudo-Nabokovian reading of Dostoevsky as my own, and even as my students clamored for more Dostoevsky, I resisted the idea of a Russian literature defined by Big Ideas.

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Art in the Middle

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When I started working on nineteenth-century Russian art almost two decades ago, one of the things that surprised me most was the stark division between the two halves of the nineteenth century—and the absence of a middle.

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NYC Russia Public Policy Series: Is it Time to Rethink Our Russia Policy?

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On October 19th, the Jordan Center and the Harriman Institute convened for the latest in their New York City — Russia Public Policy Series. Panelists included Rose Gottemoeller, Thomas Graham, David J. Kramer, and Evelyn N. Farkas, who continued the discussion they began in August at Politico in articles “It’s Time to Rethink Our Russia Policy” and “No, Now Is Not the Time for Another Russia Reset.”

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“Traditional Values” Rhetoric and Efforts for Greater Domestic Violence Protections in Russia: Why Legislative Action May Not Be Enough

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Pervasive domestic violence remains an ongoing human rights concern in Russia, with cases underreported and a pronounced lack of recourse and governmental support services. Efforts to address this issue have been consistently stymied by the rhetoric of conservative factions supporting “traditional Russian values.” Unless the concept of “traditional values” is separated from the legal sphere, formal measures meant to prevent domestic violence and assist survivors will be hollow in practice.

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US-Russia Relations Under a Biden Administration

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It seems too early to predict what form Russian-American relations will take during the incoming Biden administration. We do not yet know who will head up the Departments of State and Defense, who will become national security advisor, and who will lead the Russian desk. Still, we know enough already to surmise that we should not expect much change. 

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Ode to the Hybrid: Writing as a Russian-American

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On October 16, 2020, the Jordan Center hosted Olga Livshin, an English-language poet of Jewish descent, via Russia and Ukraine. Livshin began by introducing and reading excerpts from her recently published A Life Replaced: Poems with Translations from Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Gandelsman (2019). She then joined Professor Eliot Borenstein to discuss the challenges of finding the right words for transnational ties to her home countries after the 2016 election as a poet and translator.

It is not a coincidence that Livshin started to compile poems for her book in the US election year of 2016. “It is one of those projects you know you’ll have to do someday; and then you realize that you’ll have to do it soon—because the voices, such as yours, are not exactly being represented,” said Livshin, setting the tone for her experience as a minority writer caught in many worlds.

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Revolution Goes East: Imperial Japan and Soviet Communism

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On September 17, Professor Tatiana Linkhoeva of NYU History joined the Jordan Center and the Center for the Humanities for the virtual launch of her book, Revolution Goes East (Cornell University Press, 2020). The monograph applies a novel global perspective to the classic story of the rise of communism and the various reactions it provoked in Imperial Japan. Linkhoeva started her talk by debunking the popular belief that socialism and communism only existed in countries like China and Korea, but not in Japan. She brought into focus the underexplored Japanese leftist thought and movement prominent in the imperial period and onwards. “A lot of the interwar developments in Japan happened either as a reaction or in conversation with the rise of socialist ideas globally and domestically,” said Linkhoeva.

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In Memory of Stephen Cohen

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Earlier this year, our friend and colleague Stephen Cohen passed away. His contributions to the field of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies will be felt for years to come. Professor Cohen was a historian, but his legacy extends far beyond his scholarly work. Every year, the Stephen Cohen Fellowship — established on Professor Cohen’s initiative and supported by Katrina vanden Heuvel and the Kat Foundation — funds the graduate education for master’s students in the Department of Russian & Slavic Studies at NYU. Professor Cohen has also helped enable doctoral students to conduct dissertation research in Russia through the Cohen-Tucker Fellowship. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, we give thanks to Stephen Cohen for not only his work in the REEES field but for the generosity he, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and the Kat Foundation have shown to budding Russia scholars. We honor him today by publishing the testimonials of some of current and former students who have benefitted from Cohen Fellowships.

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The Precarity of Shishkin’s Bear Cubs

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Far from naively portraying an untroubled nature, Shishkin’s “Morning in a Pine Forest” critiques the same industrialization that would later produce mass-marketed chocolates like “Clumsy Bear.” Although the bears have not yet turned their gaze toward the interlopers, the human impact on the scene is evident in the form of the uprooted tree, an early sign of Russia’s rapid industrialization toward the end of the nineteenth century. Even as the truncated pine tree offers the bear cubs temporary amusement, it signals to the viewer that this idyllic scene, like the bear cubs standing on the broken branch, occupies a precarious position. 

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Yelena Khanga, Belonging, and Blackness in Russia

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Early in Episode 694 of the This American Life podcast, “Get Back to Where You Once Belonged,” hosts Emanuele Berry and Ira Glass are watching clips from the 1936 Soviet film “Tsirk.” They are both entranced by the story’s climax, in which a multiethnic array of Soviet citizens makes a show of accepting American circus performer Marion Dixon’s mixed-race baby (played by Afro-Russian James Lloydovich Patterson). The film led Berry to wonder if the lack of racism in the Soviet Union was real, so she found a Black Russian to interview — Yelena Khanga.

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