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!

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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

Slavic Story Time

On April 15th, 2017, the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center hosted Slavic Story Time at the Urbana Free Library. The program, held once a semester, introduces small children in the Champaign-Urbana community to the countries and cultures of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia through stories, songs, and crafts. At this spring’s Slavic Story Time, graduate student Madeline Artibee and REEEC Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Chung presented on the Czech Republic. The children watched the cartoon “Marishka’s Salt.” After watching the short cartoon, Stephanie taught them the Czech song “Šla Nanynka do zelí” (“Nancy Went to the Cabbage Field”). Madeline and Stephanie both assisted in making folded paper salt cellars, which the children colored and decorated. Everyone had a fun time. We at REEEC were delighted to once again work with the Urbana Free Library to promote learning about the countries and cultures of the region.

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Distinguished Lecture: Sergey Zenkin, “Revolutionary Event and Literary Discourse”

On April 10, 2017, Sergey Zenkin presented a lecture entitled “Revolutionary Event and Literary Discourse” as part of the REEEC Distinguished Lecture Series. Dr. Zenkin is a Professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities. His lecture focused on the works of two French philosophers, Maurice Blanchot and Paul Ricoeur, through which we can gain a more complex understanding of revolutions and their subsequent interpretations.

Sergey Zenkin giving his REEEC Distinguished Lecture

Dr. Zenkin introduced his lecture with a point about how history is interpreted. He said that, in antiquity, history was interpreted using the reigns of monarchs and emperors as guides.  Currently, however, history is interpreted using chronological points as guides, especially wars and revolutions. History is, therefore, inhuman and catastrophic.

Turning to theoretical analyses of revolutions, Dr. Zenkin noted that revolutions are imbued with an aura of heroism and entail both creation and destruction. In Maurice Blanchot’s analysis, literary creation is based on rupture. The act of writing or speaking serves to separate the author from his subject. Likewise, revolution is a “fabulous moment” in which history is emptied out. The revolution is distinct from human time, desires, and projects. The individual is no longer relevant and is replaced by the community. Blanchot viewed the revolution from within, which removes it from chronological history. He also viewed revolution as a “total event” or “super event” because it overturns the world. The totality of the revolution ultimately necessitates that it be viewed from within because there are no external points of view. Moreover, there are no possible actions because all that could be done has been done already. Perhaps the only response available is seeing. However, according to Blanchot, there are no spectators, but only readers who interpret the revolution after it has occurred. The readers can confirm or reject thought about the revolution and therefore imbue it with meaning. Through their interpretive work, the revolution ultimately becomes history.

Paul Ricoeur offers a different interpretation on revolution. He argued that there is a homology between texts and actions because both are separated from their subjects and constituted of material objects. Moreover, neither actor nor author can control the consequences of action or text. The author addresses his text to an indefinite audience. The audience reads his work and this implies action as well—a reaction to the author’s text. Ricoeur also analyzed “events of foundation,” which are extraordinary, total events affecting an entire nation or all of mankind. These events combine both negativity and creativity. Zenkin posited that, for modernity, the “event of foundation” is the revolution. Revolutions are endowed with meaning through the reactions that they evoke, such as commemoration through semi-religious rituals or repetition. Ricoeur also analyzed revolutions through the frame of mimesis of total events. The mimesis of total events shows that revolutions are paradoxical, endow absolute and negative freedom, and generate a rupture which must be sustained.

Dr. Zenkin concluded his lecture with a brief discussion of Yuri Lotman’s analysis of revolution as both culture and explosion, which normalizes revolution. Zenkin suggested that we ultimately cannot choose between revolution and normalization, writing and interpretation, or culture and explosion.

Kathleen Gergely is a first-year REEEC MA student. She is also a 2016-2017 FLAS Fellow for Russian.

FLAS Fellow Benjamin Wheeler Starts a Radio Show in Tbilisi, Georgia

Benjamin Wheeler

REEEC FLAS Fellow Benjamin Wheeler (PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology) has spent the 2016-2017 academic year in Tbilisi, Georgia, studying Georgian and Anthropology at Tbilisi State University. While attending classes at a local university, he has started an English-language radio show on the university’s radio channel (GIPA FM 94.3) called “Caucasus All Frequency,” which plays music from the Caucasus region and explores “the many meanings and unique stories behind the music.”

Check out Ben’s show at: https://soundcloud.com/radiogipa/caucasus-all-frequency