Working Group
04 Jun 2024 · 4.30 pm

Harsha Ram: Decolonizing Russian Literature?

Venue: Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Ilse-Zimmermann-Saal, Pariser Str. 1, 10719 Berlin
Contact: (Anmeldung)
Research project(s): WG Semi-Peripheral Theory

The war in Ukraine has unleashed calls for a decolonization of Russian culture. Given the importance of literature to the Russian national tradition, what is its responsibility before the catastrophe unfolding today? What role has literature played over the centuries in buttressing or critiquing the Russian state? Can we generate a critique of empire without reducing the histories of the past 300 years to the singular narrative of a monolithic Russian state or a univocal Russian literature? To date, cultural decolonization has been equated with de-Russification or the quest for narratives of national resistance: how should we assess these attempts and are alternative approaches possible?

Harsha Ram is Associate Professor at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Department of Comparative Literature at University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Imperial Sublime: A Russian Poetics of Empire (University of Wisconsin Press 2003). His forthcoming book, The Geopoetics of Sovereignty. Literatures of the Russian-Georgian Encounter, seeks to provide a historical account of cultural relations between Georgian and Russian writers and intellectuals over the course of the 18th- and 19th centuries, tracing how the Caucasus region was mapped geopolitically as contested territory and geopoetically as a space of natural and ethnolinguistic diversity. A complimentary volume, titled City of Crossroads. Nineteenth-century Tiflis between Empire and Revolution, will examine the cultural production associated with the Georgian capital Tbilisi, from travel writing to the vernacular culture of the city’s artisans to the writings of the Georgian modernists and the Russophone avant-garde.

If you would like to attend and receive the texts beforehand, please send a note to