Beyond Nostalgia. New Appropriations of Late Socialism in Contemporary Eastern European Cultures
Conference of the Section “Literary and Cultural Studies” of the DGO (German Association for East European Studies)
While the first post-socialist decades oscillated between critical confrontation with the socialist past and diffuse nostalgia for a lost stability, this has changed recently. In many areas of Eastern European literature and culture one can increasingly observe an artistic and discursive reappropriation, especially of the late socialist period, that is strongly influenced by media, popular culture, and identity politics. If Boris Groys characterizes the post-communist situation as a way back from a post-national future into the nation-state present, then today, after years of neoliberal transformation and in view of a present that has become “broad” (Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht), it seems that, conversely, the time before 1989 is being rediscovered as a space of missed opportunities, when the future was still open. Television series aimed at a broad audience, autobiographically influenced family novels, advanced cinema films as well as nationalist or religious countercultures and revanchist cultural politicians reconstruct the last decades of real existing socialism as an increasingly fictionalized playground for revising previous certainties. The conference will ask, in a comparative perspective, what these moments of fascination are based on and in what media and artistic formats in particular such shifts are expressed. Such a research question also includes fundamental cultural theoretical reflections in regard to a possible end of the “era of imitation” (Ivan Krastev/Stephen Holmes).
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Fig. above: The Tsoi Wall (Fans at the memorial wall to Viktor Tsoi (1962–1990), frontman of the band Kino, at the intersection of Arbat and Krivoarbatsky Lane in Moscow [detail]), © reibai, license: CC BY 2.0.
Mark Lipovetsky (Columbia U): Better than Nostalgia: Late Socialism in Recent TV series