2017 Fisher Workshop


June 23-24, 2017

101 International Studies Building (910 S. Fifth St., Champaign, IL 61820)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sponsored by: Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC); Center for Advanced Study; Department of History; Department of English; Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory

“Home” is a universal but diffuse category, one that suggests a common sense of belonging and even nostalgia, while simultaneously dependent on individual or group subjectivities. Within Russian and Soviet studies, the concept of home has played a critical role in many fields, including the study of political culture, everyday life, gender and sexualities, work and labor, consumer patterns, and childhood. The concept of the home—and its sometimes adjunct ‘homelessness’—also invokes questions about the meanings of modernity, the categories of public and private life, and of Russian-then-Soviet development vis a vis the image of the West.

This conference will begin to address these questions head on. How did normative understandings of the home–whether as an ideology, a built environment, a set of materialities, or the space of memory–emerge or transform after 1917 and throughout the period of Soviet rule? How were these ideas manifest in practice and theory differently across the empire, both near and abroad?  How have ordinary Russians, or elites such as officials, artists, architects, writers (whether literary or popular), understood the meaning of domestic ideology and practice, the space of the home and emotions of home life? How have planners, architects, and others created familial spaces and how have those who lived in them reacted to them? How have these ideals and realities changed over time?

We welcome contributions from scholars from a multitude of disciplines to engage with us in a pre-circulated paper workshop on topics that might include, but are not limited to:

  • SPACE: How did individuals and collectives imagine the home and how did they create domestic spaces, whether the domestic interiors or the buildings themselves? How did the expectations of domestic space shift across the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Soviet Union?
  • LABOR & WORK: How was domestic labor understood by the new Soviet regime? How was it gendered? What did domestic labor look like in the Soviet context? What differences existed between domestic work done by residents, and that done by domestic workers (domashnie rabotnitsy)?
  • MATERIAL & VISUAL CULTURE: Transformations of the home are, at their base, a transformation of material culture. How was the transformation of material culture used to create a form of Soviet domesticity? What role do the related issues of material culture, such as shortages, play in this narrative?
  • REPRESENTATIONS OF THE HOME: Because the home is such a diffuse topic, it can be difficult to trace as an object of study.  How has the Soviet home been imagined and represented throughout the Soviet era?  How do these representations transform across time and space?
  • EMOTION(S): The idea of the “home” has, for many, an intense emotional resonance. How have ideas of the home operated as emotional signifiers? How have they functioned within the Soviet context?
  • GENDER & SEXUALITY: The home became a major site of contention for those interested in the “women’s question.” In what ways were conceptions of gender and the home co-constituted? How did the gendering of the home change over time? How do the gender expectations of elites differ from the experiences of women in their everyday lives?
  • EMPIRE: How did ideas of the home differ across the wide and varied space that was the Soviet Union? Were there attempts to unify the idea of what the home should be?
  • POLITICS & POLITICAL CULTURE: How did narratives of domesticity and the home inform the political landscape in revolutionary Russia (a la Richard Wortman)? Did the state/party serve as an alternative, even imaginary, “home” for some? To what degree were home and home life on the political agenda of politicians, state actors and ordinary citizens?

The papers from this workshop, on the above themes and more, will form the basis of an edited volume to be organized with the workshop participants following the event.  Grad students, and early career and established scholars from all relevant disciplines are welcome.

For more information, please see http://fisherworkshop.weebly.com/