Utopia after Utopia

a Yale University research initiative


Utopia after Utopia: Politics and Aesthetics in the Post-Socialist World


A discernible boom in politically engaged, leftist art practices and critical theory is underway in post-socialist Russia, Eastern Europe, and East Asia. This boom defies all expectations, emerging after the depoliticizing “transition” to capitalism in the 1990s and the seemingly reactionary historical moment. Activists as well as art collectives; critics; poets; grassroots filmmakers; video, performance, and digital artists of all stripes are seeking alternative spaces for engaged aesthetic experimentation. In many cases, these aesthetic producers return to the emancipatory promises of earlier political and aesthetic experiments, re-imagining them for the digital age.

Our research initiative aims to lay the groundwork for an interdisciplinary study of recent Russian, East Asian, and Eastern European aesthetics that spans the breadth of this rapidly changing, still hopeful post-socialist world. Utopia after Utopia will foster conversations both about the particularity of these recent aesthetic practices and about their transcultural potential to inspire new modes of critical and cultural inquiry. Working together across geographical and disciplinary boundaries, we will highlight and juxtapose against each other an unprecedentedly wide range of previously unknown or little-known texts, recordings, performances, and works of visual art created in post-socialist countries. We are confident that these interdisciplinary engagements will not only enrich our understanding of this particular geographical region, but also generate new questions and methods for the study of contemporary aesthetics and world literature in general.

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