Visiting Scholars

Knar Abrahamyan (Ph.D., Music Theory, Yale University) is a music scholar whose work examines the historical and political entanglements of cultural production. Her book project, Opera as Statecraft in Soviet Armenia and Kazakhstan, re-envisions Soviet music history by analyzing the power dynamics between the state and its ethnic and racial Others. It explores opera as a contested imperial space through which the Soviet state pursued colonial subjugation under the guise of cultural modernization. Abrahamyan has presented at major national and international conferences, and her work on Soviet music and politics appeared in the DSCH Journal and a collected volume, Analytical Approaches to 20th-Century Russian Music. Alongside research and teaching, Abrahamyan pursues mentorship, service, and outreach aimed at global issues such as equity in education and climate change. With grants from the Tufenkian Foundation and Yale’s Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking, she founded and directed the Hadrut Educational Summer Camp in her native Nagorno-Karabakh region. In addition, through serving on various committees—including SMT’s Sustainability Task Force and the Ecomusicologies 2022 pre-conference panel—she helps solve environmental problems such as reducing the carbon footprint of conference travel. Within her broad research interests—including posthumanism, sound studies, Slavic studies, environmental humanities, and intellectual history—Abrahamyan’s scholarly explorations continuously reassess the role of the Other, thinking about and through difference. It is through this act of reassessment that her work promotes humanistic inquiry as the key to averting hostility and violence between seemingly irreconcilable worldviews. Abrahamyan is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows at Columbia University, where she will join the Music Department as Assistant Professor of Music Theory & Race in the fall of 2023.


Mengqi Mercy An is a PhD Candidate in Comparative Thought and Literature at Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on Sino-Russian comparative literature, modernism/modernity, ecocriticism, and transcultural studies. She received a B.A. and an M.A. in Russian Language and Literature from Peking University, China. Her dissertation project examines the cross-cultural representations of nature in literary works produced in Manchuria by Russian and Chinese writers from 1920s to 1940s.


Elena Chernyak is an Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Criminology, and Human Services at Hartwick College (Oneonta, NY). She received her PhD in Sociology from the Department of Sociology, University of Windsor (Canada). She also holds her MA degree in Journalism from Saint-Petersburg State University (Russia), Master of Religious Education from Assumption University (Canada), and Master of Social Work from the University of Windsor (Canada). Elena’s research interests lie primarily in the area of gender and encompass gender-based violence, gender ideology, gendered discourses and social institutions, family relations, the impact of culture and religions on gender and identity, and Russia and Soviet/post-Soviet societies. She is the author of several articles on domestic violence against women in the countries of the former Soviet Union in which she examined, compared, and discussed the extent and determinants of intimate partner violence in the countries of this region and analyzed how patriarchal ideology and traditional gender norms in the post-Soviet societies contribute to gender-based violence by exploring the unique historical, political, and social context of the former Soviet Union. Currently, Elena is working on a book that draws from a broader ethnography and primarily consists of semi-standardized depth interviews, life histories, observations, discourse analysis, and content analysis of existing documents, historical and religious literature, and mass media. The book entitled A history of Russian women: A thousand-year of oppression and humility critically explores the experience of Russian women throughout over a thousand years and how the position and image of women changed in the Russian Empire, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, and what role women play in contemporary Russia.


Joan Neuberger is Earl E. Sheffield Regents Professor of History Emerita in the History Department at The University of Texas at Austin. Her most recent book, This Thing of Darkness: Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible in Stalin’s Russia won the American Historical Association’s George L. Mosse Book Prize. Her current research explores the politics of nature in Eisenstein’s films and writing. She is also working on several related projects to create an accessible digital library of Eisenstein’s publications and to digitally map his intellectual world. Neuberger was born in Stuyvesant Town and is currently living in Brooklyn and is enjoying re-exploring her hometown.


Dr. Viktoria Paranyuk is a Lecturer in the department of Film and Screen Studies at Pace University in New York City. Her research centers on Russo-Soviet visual culture and cinema, global art film, theories of realism and modernism, and contributions of women to cinema. She is currently completing her first book about Soviet film culture and the notion of sincerity during the Thaw. Her writing has appeared in Film HistorySlavic Review, and Senses of Cinema. Viktoria has co-curated film programs at the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University.


Dr. Jillian Porter holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research explores intersections between Russian economic history and cultural production from the late 18th century to the present. Porter’s first book, Economies of Feeling: Russian Literature under Nicholas I (Northwestern UP, 2017), offers new explanations for the fantastical plots of mad or blocked ambition that helped set the 19th-century Russian prose tradition in motion. It has been reprinted in Russian translation as Ekonomika chuvstv: Russkaia literatura epokhi Nikolaia I (Academic Studies Press, 2021). Porter is currently at work on a second book, entitled The Art of the Queue: From the Revolution to Putin. This book explores standing in line as a paradigmatic experience of Soviet everyday life and an enduring cultural trope in contemporary Russia. Porter has been awarded a Fall 2021 membership at the Institute for Advanced Studies’ School of Historical Studies and a Spring 2022 faculty fellowship from CU Boulder’s Center for Humanities and the Arts in support of this project. Together with Dr. Maya Vinokour at NYU, Porter is also co-editing a collection of essays entitled Red Hot: Russian Energy Culture. The volume explores energy (energiia) as a shaping force in Russian culture from the late 19th century to the present.


Elisa Purschke is a PhD Candidate at Princeton University’s Department of German. A comparativist by training with broad interests in Eastern and Western European political, social, and cultural history and theory from the 20th century to the present, Elisa is currently writing a dissertation on the Interwar Proletarian Culture movement (Proletkul’t). This dissertation locates in the Proletkul’t’s experiments with deskilling or de-specializing political and cultural activity its distinct approach to a mass-based, internationally oriented, and formally explorative practice. Elisa previously studied Comparative Literature, Slavic and German Studies, and Classical Philology at the University of Munich, Germany (LMU). During her studies, Elisa conducted extended language training and research in Paris, Petersburg, Vladivostok and Kyiv, and participated in a program in literary translation.


Brandon Schechter is a historian of the Soviet Union, specializing in the Red Army, with particular interests in material culture, gender, empire, and comparative history. He has returned to the Jordan Center to work on his second monograph, The Search for Salvation in the Second World War, a comparison of US Army chaplains and Red Army political workers. This project will examine the everyday processes of how chaplains and political workers shepherded soldiers through a war in which the US and USSR emerged as superpowers. It is the story of how two very different regimes – a pluralistic democracy and a monolithic dictatorship – embedded specialists among soldiers to make sense of the war and provide spiritual solace. Schechter’s first book, The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects (Cornell, 2019), won the American Historical Association’s Paul Birdsall Prize for best book in European military or strategic history in 2020. He has taught at Berkeley, Brown, Columbia, and NYU both in Manhattan and Shanghai. Schechter has been a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center and the Elihu Rose Scholar in Modern Military History at NYU. Schechter received his B.A. in Russian Studies at Vassar in 2005, a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 2015, and has also studied at Middlebury, Smolny College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, European University in St. Petersburg, and Kazan Federal University.


Maria Vinogradova is a film and media historian specializing in the study of Soviet film culture, in particular, nonfiction, experimental and amateur films: their creation, distribution, circulation, and afterlives in the post-celluloid era. She is currently working on her book manuscript “On the Public Rails: A History of Soviet Amateur Filmmaking (1957-1991).” This project has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (2021-2022) and National Endowment for the Humanities (2022-2023).