2017 Fisher Fellow: Ingrid Nordgaard

Ingrid Nordgaard, PhD Candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University, was awarded the 2017 Fisher Fellowship for her research at the Summer Research Lab on aesthetics in Russia’s north. The fellowship, named after Dr. Ralph Fisher, the founder of SRL and REEEC, and a champion for building the Slavic collection at the University of Illinois Library, provides funding to a scholar with a particularly promising research project.

While at SRL, Nordgaard worked on the first chapter of her dissertation project, “Aesthetics of the North: Russian Modernist Culture and Scandinavia, 1891-1910.” She also gave a Noontime Scholars Lecture entitled “On the Frozen Sea: Exploring, Writing and Painting the Northern Frontier.”

According to Nordgaard, SRL has been on her radar for a while. After reading about it on SEELANGS, she was encouraged by professors to apply and heard excellent reports from fellow graduate students, who had attended SRL in the past. After defending her prospectus last spring, she decided to kick-start her dissertation, or, as she calls it “the big forest that is The Dissertation” by attending SRL, knowing that she would be able to work with the staff at Slavic Reference Service, who would be able to give tips on how to tackle such a big project.

At the early stages of her research, Nordgaard has found SRL most helpful for getting advice on how to collect materials most efficiently, that is, locate archives, track down obscure sources and access them in the US. In general, she is searching for resources that shed light on how cultural producers in Russia approached the North within the period she is studying. Since she has been at SRL, she has been able to locate articles on the topic from several Russian journals published in the 1890s, and she has also made a list of what archives and folders to look into when she goes to Russia. Additionally, she remarked that the Slavic Reference Service librarians have been an excellent resource on their own.  “You might find several copies of a book, but there’s only one Joe Lenkart!” said Norgaard.

Her favorite thing about the SRL experience has been allowing herself to completely indulge in her work without thinking of anything else. “Waking up in the morning,” she said, “I’m excited to start another day of research — every day brings something new, since you can never really be completely certain about what you might find!”

“I would highly recommend SRL! Even though I attend a large research institution like Yale University and have access to a wide array of resources, it still does not compare to attending a lab in which you get to work so closely with a librarian and receive personal advice on how to approach various research questions,” said Nordgaard. Plus, she remarked, the people in Urbana-Champaign are very friendly, the squirrels and the rabbits are amazingly bold, and the campus area has a lovely atmosphere.

REEEC New Directions Lecture: Martin Previsic, “The Yugoslav Gulag: The Goli otok (Barren Island) Labor Camp, 1949-1956”

Martin Previsic (Assistant Professor of History, University of Zagreb) gave the REEEC New Directions Lecture entitled “The Yugoslav Gulag: The Goli otok (Barren Island) Labor Camp, 1949-1956” on April 17. His presentation, part of a larger study on prison camps and the Tito-Stalin split, centered on Goli otok, the largest and most notorious prison in Yugoslavia. Goli otok was a public secret and a huge taboo in Tito’s Yugoslavia that is only recently being studied in detail. Previsic began his lecture by explaining why it was built. On November 11, 1945, when the Communist Party of Yugoslavia took power, Soviet methods were used in all spheres of economic life . However, on June 28, 1948, Tito was expelled from the Cominform, an organization of socialist countries led by the Soviet Union, because he had proposed a more independent approach to communism and a break from Soviet hegemony.

Martin Previsic speaking on violence in Goli otok and Tito’s communism

Previsic argued that the split was not unanimously supported within the Yugoslav Communist Party. While some party members were supporters of Stalin and opposed Tito’s action, the question of who were Stalin’s supporters was ambiguous. Anyone who did not completely agree with Tito’s position could be labeled a Stalinist and imprisoned, likely in Goli otok. It was a purge of anybody who was not considered a genuine Tito supporter.

At its height, Goli otok held 30,000 people and incarcerated 75 percent of alleged Stalin supporters. The main purpose of the prison was reeducation. Stalin supporters would be persuaded by pro-Tito prisoners to abandon their views in a non-violent environment. In reality, violence and humiliation were everywhere. The “bandits,” the lowest class of prisoners and those who were not sufficiently pro-Tito, could be tormented for months, and were assigned the hardest and most meaningless work.

To Previsic, Goli otok was a classic example of Yugoslav Stalinism, an “Anti-Stalinist Stalinism” that was designed to eliminate Tito’s party opponents in order to consolidate his power. Though Tito proclaimed that Yugoslav communism was a purer, better form of communism, Goli otok represented how Tito’s brand of communism also killed its own people for political reasons. By 1981, dozens of novels described Goli otok figuratively, signaling the crumbling of Tito’s persona and system. Through his study of Goli otok, Previsic tried to give the prison’s survivors a way to voice their experience in interviews and oral history. Even after Goli otok officially closed in 1987, released prisoners continued to be humiliated and subject to surveillance. They had to work for the secret police and pledge to not talk about their experience there.

Goli otok exemplifies the complexity of Yugoslavia’s communist heritage. It remains a well-kept secret without much documentation. In Croatia, many still say that only “bad people” were sent there. Previsic argues that memories of Goli otok reemerged periodically in the 1990s and 2000s in different contexts. The prison camps of the Bosnian War resembled Goli otok. “Spanish swimming,” a torture method the UDBA used to force prisoners to give up names, reemerged as waterboarding during the U.S. war on terror. Yet, there is no memorial or museum at Goli otok. Though tourists visit from time to time in the summer (and write articles for travel blogs about it), it remains a largely abandoned, crumbling place that still hovers over Croatian society.

Stephanie Chung is the Outreach and Programming Coordinator at REEEC and a Ph.D. Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in Soviet literature and culture, Russian women’s writing, and Czech literature. She received her B.A. in Plan II Honors/Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2007; and her M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2009 from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently writing a dissertation on Soviet women’s memoirs as literary and media texts.

History PhD Candidate Deirdre Ruscitti Harshman Awarded Midwest Slavic Association’s Student Essay Prize

Deirdre Ruscitti Harshman, PhD Candidate in the History Department, earned first place in the graduate category of the Midwest Slavic Association’s Student Essay Prize for her essay “Cooking Up a New Everyday: Communal Kitchens in the Revolutionary Era, 1890-1935.”

The Midwest Slavic Association’s Student Essay Competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate students attending an institution in the Midwest or that participated in the 2017 Midwest Slavic Conference. For her winning paper, Harshman will receive a one-year membership to ASEEES and will be entered in the ASEEES national essay competition.

Harshman’s research interests include Russian History, Urban History, Everyday Life, Modern European History, Working Class History, and Utopian Studies.


Originally posted on The Ohio State University’s Center for Slavic and East European Studies’ website: https://slaviccenter.osu.edu/news/midwest-slavic-association%E2%80%99s-student-essay-prize-winners-0

Professor Lilya Kaganovsky receives Provost’s Campus Distinguished Promotion Award

Originally posted on SLCL’s Latest News Website: http://illinois.edu/lb/article/4799/101048


 

Lilya Kaganovsky, Professor of Comparative and World Literature and Slavic Languages and Literatures, has been named the recipient of the Provost’s Campus Distinguished Promotion Award.  She is one of only 12 faculty members campus-wide to be so honored for 2017.

The Campus Committee on Promotion and Tenure, in forwarding her case for promotion to full professor to the Chancellor, identified her as one of a set of scholars up for promotion “whose contributions were truly exceptional in terms of quality of work and overall achievement.”

During its annual promotion review process, the Campus Committee on Promotion and Tenure identifies exceptional cases of scholars whose contributions have been extraordinary in terms of quality of work and overall achievement. Only two to four scholars at each level of tenured faculty promotion (associate professor and full professor) are selected to receive Campus Distinguished Promotion Awards. Each receives a discretionary fund to support their scholarly activities.

Kaganovsky received a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her areas of specialization include Soviet literature and film, film and critical theory, gender studies, sound studies, the nineteenth century novel, and modernism.

 

REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture: Lydia Catedral, “‘I just say Russian’: Speaking Russian and claiming Russianness among Uzbeks in the United States”

Lydia Catedral giving her REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture

On April 25, 2017, Lydia Catedral (PhD Candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois) gave a REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture entitled “‘I just say Russian’: Speaking Russian and claiming Russianness among Uzbeks in the United States.”

Catedral began by defining some relevant terms from sociolinguistics. After distinguishing between referential and non-referential meaning, the latter denoting meaning conveyed through aspects of language other than the semantic content of words (e.g. intonation’s capacity to provide information on the speaker’s attitude toward what they are saying), Catedral invoked Michael Silverstein’s work on non-referential indexicality (itself indebted to Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic theory) to discuss what the use of the Russian language “points to” in the social world of Uzbeks living in the United States. Using Penelope Eckert’s notion of the “indexical field”—a “field of potential meanings… or constellation of ideologically related meanings” in which “variation constitutes an indexical system that embeds ideology in language”—Catedral asked, “How do global and transnational movements of Uzbeks to the United States reorder or shift the indexical field of Russian language and identity?”

Catedral also gave an overview of the “indexicalities” of Russian in Uzbekistan and Central Asia. She noted a “strong association of Russian language with Soviet rule,” the connection between Uzbek nationalism and de-russification efforts (e.g. changing from a Cyrillic to a Latin alphabet), the “dichotomy between Russian ethnic identity and Uzbek ethnic identities,” and the Russian language’s status as the language of technology and the internet and a “language of status” (it is considered an international language and “prized in education”) in Central Asia.

Catedral citied an open letter from the president of an Uzbek community organization in the Midwest which distinguishes between three types of Uzbeks living in America: those who “make an effort to preserve Uzbekness (language, religion, and culture),” those who have converted to Christianity (“They say they are especially in California”), and “atheists” who teach their children Russian “like the Uzbeks in the former communist era,” (“For them… the mother tongue is not very necessary”). Catedral observed that the writer aligns himself with the first type and distances himself from the other two, both spatio-temporally (California, the communist era) and linguistically (“they”/”them”). In this context, the Uzbek language is connected to religious and cultural identity, and Russian is indexical of the failure to maintain Uzbekness.

In a conversation with two sisters about their wish for one of their daughters to maintain Uzbekness and Uzbek morality (e.g. “no short skirts or drinking”), Catedral found that they still relied on the dichotomy between Russianness and Uzbekness, but that it had “migrated into the American context as a way of not letting your kids assimilate into the American culture… ‘Russian’ acts as a stand-in for everything else you might not want to be.” However, Catedral noted that Russianness can also serve as a “momentary substitute” for Uzbekness, a product of misrecognition on the part of Americans. Such stories indicate that the issue is “a lack of knowledge on the part of non-Uzbeks, or people in the U.S. [It’s] not a problem with our own ethnic identification, but with how Americans don’t understand.” Another relevant concern for Uzbeks in the U.S. is the desire to present themselves as the “good kind of immigrant”: “Nobody wants to be from Pakistan,” which has to do with “concerns about Islamophobia” and “issues of race”—not wanting to be identified as Pakistanis, a lot of Uzbeks just say “Russian.”

Catedral also noted the sense that Russian was “insufficiently global,” contrary to the perception of Russian as an international language in Central Asia. One of her interviewees spoke of visiting Uzbekistan and noticing that her friends spoke in Russian to show how “international” they were (“They try to speak in Russian and they feel themselves to be just like on a Europeanized level”)—for her, speaking Russian to indicate internationalism was instead an index of provincialism.

Catedral concluded by asserting that these indexicalities of Russian and Russianness among Uzbeks in the U.S.—“Not maintaining Uzbekness,” “Uzbek immigrant identity as represented to Americans,” and “A local (and dispreferred) way of attempting to be global”—are fluid, and “the most salient ones depend on the interactional context.” Furthermore, she argued that the fact of transnational mobility results in a broader number of possible meanings in the indexical field of Russian and Russianness. In highlighting the interaction between Uzbek and Russian language and identity in the United States, Catedral’s research “has implications for understanding post-Soviet people as global subjects, and for uncovering the shifting meanings of Russian across varying transnational contexts.”

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year for the study of Russian. 

Spring Reception 2017

REEEC celebrated the end of the academic year with a Spring Reception on May 4th. Skalnik Prize winners, FLAS fellows for both the summer and 2017-2018 academic year, graduating students, and REEEC’s dedicated graduate student workers were announced and lauded. REEEC faculty, students, and staff thanked Director David Cooper for a wonderful 5 years of service. In appreciation, we recalled some of the most memorable moments of the last 5 years. We wish him all the best as he returns to the Slavic Department full-time. REEEC wishes everyone a terrific summer! See you in the fall!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Student News

REEEC congratulates the following student award winners and the Summer 2017 FLAS fellows:

2017 Yaro Skalnik Prize for the Best Graduate Essay in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies:

  • Felix Cowan (PhD Student in History) for his essay, “Beyond Urban Boundaries: The Penny Press and Lower-Class Integration in the Russian Empire”
  • Daria Semenova (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for her essay, “A Robinson for an awakening nation: a case study on a translation which is not one”

Summer 2017 FLAS Fellows:

  • Tyler Dolan (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Russian
  • Jacob Goldsmith (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Russian
  • LeiAnna Hamel (PhD Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Yiddish
  • Douglas Heintz (MS Candidate in Library and Information Science) for Russian
  • Marco Jaimes (PhD Candidate in History) for Czech
  • Jennifer Jenson (PhD Student in German Studies) for Russian
  • Benjamin Krupp (PhD Student in Anthropology) for Russian
  • Thornton Miller (PhD Candidate in Musicology) for Russian
  • Hannah Werner (PhD Student in History) for Yiddish