We are a working group on the literature and arts of the socialist world. The group considers the art and literature produced in the multinational USSR and the PRC, in Soviet satellite states and other communist and socialist countries, and by writers, artists, and institutions affiliated with the international communist movement in one or another of its variants. Our group is made up of scholars whose collective range of expertise allows us think about   world art and literature as a richly diverse object of study, and it operates in the context of a crop of recent monographs, edited volumes, and symposia that have solidified conversations in Slavic, East Asian, and Global South studies that stake a claim for the role of international communism in creating the institutions of world literature and art as we know them today. It is to these institutions and the actors behind them that we want to turn our attention, but also to the literary and artistic production that occurred in their ambit.

For the foreseeable future, the group meets online three times per semester. Participation is by invitation. However, it is our intention, in due course, to convert our group into an institute, to be housed at one of our home universities, which will hold symposia and talk series, organize group publications, and provide a directory of interested scholars.

“Narva 1988: Art-Work and Unruly Collectivities at Last Soviet Festival”
Wednesday, January 25, 2023,  12.00pm-1:30pm EST

Convener: Leah Feldman

This Workshop will discuss a chapter from Leah’s book manuscript, Feeling Collapse, which reexamines late Soviet unofficial visual and performance art from the Caucasus and Central Asia during the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and early 1990s. Leah writes, “I am interested in how feelings – in the sense of both emotions and sensations – index waning attachments to an idea of the Soviet good-life, Soviet multinationalism, and socialist internationalism amid the collapse. Feeling Collapse also asks how these waning attachments emerged alongside forms of authoritarian ethno-nationalism. Examining performance, video and installation art from the Caucasus and Central Asia, I explore how this work produced a repertoire of emotions and sensations about the socio-political and economic transition. The works tend to turn away from a symbolic visual hierarchy attached to a spectacular Soviet statehood and instead engage experiments with other sensations—tactility, rhythm, and sensing others in space.”

The chapters are as follows: 1.    Feeling Timeless: The Suspended Temporalities of Parajanov’s Collage Aesthetics takes up sex, gender and internationalist feelings in the work of Sergei Parajanov; 2.  **Narva 1988: Art-Work and Unruly Collectivities at Last Soviet Festival (chapter manuscript included); 3.     Feeling Stateless: Rustam Khalfin’s Nomad Thought discusses spectacular statehood and the shift from Soviet multinationalism to post-Soviet nationalism through the framework of Eurasianism in Kazkhstan. The chapter focuses on the video art of Rustam Khalfin and his work with hapticity; 4. Feeling Worldly: The Ilkhom Theatre’s Improvisations of Socialist Internationalism discusses the Soviet World Literature project through the Ilkhom theatre’s adaptations of World Literature classics for the Tashkent stage as currency for socialist internationalist feelings. It focuses in particular on adaptations of Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, Abdulla Qodiri’s Kalvak Mahzum’s Notebooks in their production Black, Black, White Stork, as well as Pushkin’s Evgenii Onegin and Imitations.