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Anna Korhonen
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Eeva Korteniemi
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aleksanteri-fellows [at] helsinki.fi

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Location & Connections

 

Visiting Fellows 2013-2014

Alexei Yurchak, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Anthropology, USA

“Lenin's body: the politics of science and history”
(March-May 2014)


(Yurchak

Biography:
Alexei Yurchak is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton University Press, 2006), which won the 2007 Vucinich Book Prize for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies from ASEEES. The Russian version of this book (translated, rewritten and expanded by the author) is being published by Neprekosnovennyi zapas in Spring 2014. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Representations. At the Aleksanteri Institute he is working on a book on the history and present of the Soviet project of preserving Lenin’s body and the bodies of a few other communist leaders for eternity. The project is interdisciplinary (situated between anthropology, history, political theory and science studies). He is also working on a series of papers, and eventually a book, on current political art in Russia and elsewhere, and on a book (co-authored with a geographer) on urban transformation, entitled “Global St Petersburg: The Politics of Time, Space, and Aesthetics In a Post-Communist Metropolis.” His published papers can be viewed here: https://berkeley.academia.edu/AlexeiYurchak

Abstract of current research:
My project, “Lenin’s Body: the politics of science and history”, investigates the political, scientific and cultural aspects of the unique Soviet project of maintaining Lenin’s body in the Mausoleum in Moscow for the past 90 years, and the implications of this project for the debates about Russia’s political identity today. This project is based on ethnographic research and interviews with the scientists of “Lenin Lab” in Moscow, archival research in three Russian state archives, and analysis of the contemporary political debates in Russia about the fate of Lenin’s body.

Although the Russian state today no longer makes references to Leninism for political legitimacy, the Mausoleum remains open to the public and Lenin’s body is still maintained and treated in the same manner as it has been for ninety years. In recent years this body has become a focal point of a fierce debate about Russia’s emerging political identity. Depending on one’s position in this debate, one tends to have a different opinion about what the preservation of Lenin’s body has meant historically and what its fate should be today. Why has Lenin’s body – but, significantly, not his texts, words and ideas – become one of the most controversial subjects in the debates about Russia’s past and future? What is the contemporary political, cultural and scientific significance of this body? What might be its future?

My project addresses these questions by focusing on the debates around Lenin’s body and on material and scientific practices that have shaped it. During my stay at Aleksanteri Institute I will be working on two final chapters of this book project and doing research in the “Glasnost Collection” of the Slavonic Library of Helsinki University.


Email: yurchak[at]berkeley.edu

Webpages:

http://anthropology.berkeley.edu/users/alexei-yurchak
https://berkeley.academia.edu/AlexeiYurchak

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Anna-Liisa Heusala and Sanna Turoma