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Aleksanteri Conference
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Linguistics and Politics during the Cold War

Speaking at a conference at Indiana University in 1958, the Russian-American scholar Roman Jakobson opened his famous talk ”Linguistics and Poetics” by stating: “Fortunately, scholarly and political conferences have nothing in common. The success of a political convention depends on the general agreement of the majority or totality of its participants. The use of votes and vetoes -- is alien to scholarly discussion, where disagreement generally proves to be more productive than agreement.” Jakobson’s negative parallel was obviously aimed at disassociating scholarly work from political practice, but, in some respects, the parallel, in fact, works the opposite way. It foregrounds the convolute relations between scholarship and politics in the Cold War environment. With Jakobson as one model, this panel explores the various forms of scholarly exchange in Soviet and western linguistic and literary studies during the Cold War period. It examines the manifold politics of academic practices and their reflections on theoretical formations. Above all, it seeks to shed light on the scholarly dialogue within these fields across the East/West division.

Thursday 29 Oct 11.45-13.15 SESSION 1