The European Subject and the ›Homo sovieticus‹
This project investigates the discursive strategies and practices of the cultural production of specific European subjects with regards to the construction of »Homo sovieticus« (A. Sinov’ev).
The Soviet culture views European subjectivity as problematic. In light of new research, a controversial debate regarding such figuration emerges: Is one justified in employing the distinctions such as »Soviet subject« or »Soviet subjectivity«?
Based on Hannah Arendt’s proposition of the »absolute atomization of the Russian mass society«, there is on the one hand the assertion of the impossibility of the figuration of the individual as »wertstruktur« or the result of the »process of subjectivity-displacement« (B. Dubin). In a similar vein, O. Charchordin diagnoses the Soviet Union as a land »forcedly individualistic.« On the other hand, there is the engagement with autobiographical texts, diaries, letters and other documents of »works on self-identity« (most notably those of the 1920–1930’s) as a kind of laboratory of »Soviet subjectivity« (J. Hellbeck, I. Halfin and others). In recent years, historical and cultural research has increasingly employed analyses of the interaction between singularity and controlled, politically-powered identity figurations. Such an approach emerges from the backdrop of historical circumstances that portray the Soviet culture as a genuinely collective, utopian project founded upon the people’s mobilization.
The specific interest of this project builds upon this research trajectory, investigating salient examples of Georgian-Soviet and Russian-Soviet perspectives and their interplay. The project proposes two points of emphasis:
- The cultural figuration of the Soviet hero: The meaningful and mobilizing function of the Soviet hero for the cultural production of the »new Soviet people« will be questioned in particular. This investigation follows upon past research of Soviet modernization in rapport with national discourse. In addition, it develops principal reflections upon the Soviet hero as a figure, in which one observes the configuration of political-ideological as well as sacred features in various historical-cultural and media constellations (Workshop 2010). Media-specific strategies of hero-figuration will thereby be examined as the legacy of antique models or figures (like Prometheus).
- Forms and practices of a Soviet Éducation sentimentale: Belonging also to cultural research of the »Soviet subject« is the investigation of the employed systematic supervision and conversion of emotional energies, such as that of tragedy to triumph (in particular the tragedy of the sacrifice of war to the optimism and pathos-formula of pride). This Soviet form of éducation sentimentale has yet to be extensively researched. The constitution of the emotional world of »Homo sovieticus« will be accordingly examined, along with the operations with which »Soviet« emotions are mediated, reared, practiced and represented.
The investigations are structured by the following central questions: How is the »Soviet subject« conceptualized and represented in literature and film (posters)? With which attributes, emotions and spheres of influence is it endowed? How does it differ from the concept of the »new people«? With which practices and operations should singularity be exercised to become a »new Soviet people«? How does singularity evade itself in autobiographical personal testimonies, in the face of a culture that identifies itself outwardly (in the realm of the publicly visible) with triumph, jubilation, happiness and optimism?