A warm welcome to all the new scholars to our research community! See here descriptions of their exciting projects.
(May-June 2023)Marina F. Bykova is Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University and the Editor-in-chief of two philosophical journals: Studies in East European Thought (Springer) and Russian Studies in Philosophy (Routledge). Her main area of specialization is the history of the nineteenth century continental philosophy, with a focus on German idealism, especially on Fichte and Hegel. Her most recent books include The German Idealism Reader: Ideas, Responses and Legacies (Bloomsbury, 2019), Hegel’s Philosophy of Spirit: A Critical Guide (ed., Cambridge UP, 2019), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Fichte (ed., Bloomsbury, 2020), and The Palgrave Hegel Handbook (co-ed. with K. Westphal; Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). She has also published books on Russian intellectual tradition, including recently appeared Philosophical Thought in Russia in the Second Half of the 20th Century: A Contemporary Views from Russia and Abroad (co-ed. with V.A. Lektorky; Bloomsbury, 2019) and The Palgrave Handbook of Russian Thought (co-ed. with M. Forster and L. Steiner). In addition to books, she is the author of more than 200 research articles published in English, German, and Russian.
Professor Bykova was awarded a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship and named Lisa Meitner Fellow. She has also held fellowships at the University of Marburg (Germany), University of Zurich (Switzerland), University of Vienna (Austria), and Ohio State University (USA).
Current research project
In her research on Russian philosophical thought, Professor Bykova is mostly interested in the Soviet period, which has traditionally suffered from neglect, being treated with suspicion as dogmatically monolithic and obsessed exclusively with maintaining its ideologically rigid status quo. Her project focuses on the analysis of philosophical ideas and life, how they came to be shaped by a notable group of Soviet philosophers known as shestidesiatniki (the Sixtiers). The project draws attention to the very phenomenon of the Sixtiers in Soviet philosophy, which has important sociological, psychological, and political characteristics and can be understood only in the context of the progression of Soviet culture, both intellectual and personal. The name of this social and cultural phenomenon is Shestidesiatnichestvo, the liberating movement initiated and carried out by the reformist intellectuals who are often referred to as the “Children of the Twentieth Party Congress” to signal their anti-Stalinist outlook. However, the deeper roots of this “intellectual fraternity” and important sources of the Sixtiers’ inquiries are found in the events that preceded the 20th Party Congress.
The project aims at understanding the far-reaching consequences of Shestidesiatnichestvo for Soviet philosophy and the liberating transformation of social reality. As perhaps the longest generation, the Sixtiers produced original ideas and theories that essentially determined the future development of philosophical thought in Russia, both in the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods. Furthermore, their highly influential works became an important vehicle for the social criticism eventually leading to important political and societal reforms.
While in Helsinki, Professor Bykova will be working on a paper that will explore the question of the sociology of knowledge. By analyzing the phenomenon of Shestidesiatnichestvo she will attempt to show how knowledge becomes social criticism and then translates itself into social action leading to the transformation of reality.
Miranda Jakiša is Professor of South Slavic Literatures and Cultures at the University of Vienna, Austria. She is President of the Austrian Association of Slavonic Studies and Head of Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft Wien. Her research interests include esthetic strategies of dissensus and resentment; literatures of migration and transnational multilingualism; post-Yugoslavism, as well as documentary and postdramatic theater in Slavic and East European countries. She has recently co-edited a volume on the South Slavs in Vienna (Südslawisches Wien. Zur Sichtbarkeit und Präsenz des Südslawischen in Wien, Böhlau/Wien 2022, with Katharina Tyran) and is currently working on contemporary narratives of competitive victimhood in the post-Yugoslav performative and visual arts.
Miranda Jakiša was professor of South and East Slavic Literatures at Humboldt University Berlin from 2009-2019. She was Fung Global Fellow at the Princeton Institute for Regional Studies in 2017 and Visiting Fellow at the Imre-Kertesz-Kolleg “Europe’s East in the 20th Century” in Jena.
Current research project
Miranda Jakiša is currently working on South Slavic victimhood narratives, narratives of auto-victimization and heroic sacrifice, that together with the accusative positions of competitive victimhood form a dysfunctional conglomerate and memory-cultural impasse in the post-Yugoslav region. At the Aleksanteri Institute she will work on a critical introduction to her edition project “Contemporary South Slavic Victimhood Narratives and Performances in Arts and Culture” and an article/smaller study within: “Coping with Srebrenica in Arts”.
Artistic expressions (in Jakiša’s research most of all: theatre, film, literature, performance) are crucial opponents of the entangled and interdependent victimhood narratives. The project asks how victimhood is interpreted, narrated, performed and functionalized today, more than 25 years after the end of the Yugoslav Wars and in a geopolitical space still suffering from the consequences of the 1990s conflicts. It investigates how the rising political indignation against these narratives has shifted into the ‘responsibility’ of artists and the arts.
To discuss victimhood narratives in the broader scope and within the currently manyfold phenomena (and consequences) of re-writing history in Eastern Europe, Jakiša considers to be especially valuable for the study and understanding of post-conflict societies.
(7 March – 7 May 2023)
Iwona Kaliszewska is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Warsaw. Her research focuses on Islam, state and anti-state violence, and more recently on war and humanitarianism. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the North Caucasus since 2004 and in Ukraine since 2009. She has been a visiting scholar at the George Washington University and at the UC Berkeley. Her articles appeared in Ethnicities, Contemporary Islam, and Slavic Review, among others. Her monograph (co-authored with Maciej Falkowski) entitled Veiled and Unveiled in Chechnya and Daghestan was published by Hurst Publishers in 2016. For Putin and for Sharia. Dagestani Muslims and the Islamic State is a title of her forthcoming book by the Cornell University Press (imprint NIU Press).
Current research project
The aim of my project is to explore ‘halal landscapes’ in Dagestan during the COVID19 pandemics, and more recently war in Ukraine. ‘Halal landscapes’ emerge through the gradual infusion of Islam into the sphere of everyday activities, where they form “Islam-inspired” social spaces where acting halal (in a permissible way, according to sharia) is facilitated and where social life has its unique materiality and temporality. Halal landscapes form a moral realm, a counterpoint, or an alternative to spaces that are viewed as ‘non-ethical’. In my book project I develop further the concept of ‘halal landscapes’ and show its applicability in the analysis of religious lives of Muslims inhabiting secular states. I look into ‘halal landscapes’ of observant Muslims from the capital city of Makhachkala and try to understand if the pandemics and, more recently, war caused any disruptions or changes in collective and individual religious practices and experiences, such as mosque attendance, knowledge acquisition, Islamic healing, food, dress, both on local and trans-local levels.
Apart from my book project, due to recent invasion of Ukraine, I currently conduct my fieldwork in Ukraine and Poland (with prof. Elisabeth Dunn from the University of Indiana) working on the concept of “Distributed Humanitarianism”.
Tetiana Perga has a PhD in History from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Since 1993, she has been working in the National Academy of Science of Ukraine: in 1993-2013 at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, and from 2014 till now at the Institute of World History where she is currently a Leading Researcher. She is an author of 140 articles, co-author of seven books, and author of two monographs that focused on different aspects of environmental history. She was a DAAD fellow in IOS Regensburg (June-July 2018) and in at the Heidelberg University (April-May 2022) and is Fellow of the Volkswagen Foundation from June 2022 to May 2023. With a background in history, Dr. Perga is interested in the history of environmental policy particularly in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as the current state of environmental policy.
Current research project
The project aims to disprove the popular idea that recycling began to develop in the USSR only during the Cold War and demonstrate the introduction of wide-ranging recycling programs in the USSR in the 1920s. This period can serve as an entry point to uncover actors, structures, channels, and different practices of waste picking in the Soviet Union. However, existing literature examining waste-related activities of this period is poor. The least developed aspect is the collection and utilization of rags in the USSR. The research focuses on the Ukrainian USSR, which was the most industrialized Soviet republic after Russia.
This case study will enable to understand the main directions of the Soviet policy on waste management, particularly rags, and to reveal the regional context of this activity. The author intends to identify the place and importance of rags in the early Soviet waste management regime, analyze the Soviet practices of rag-picking, its continuities or ruptures with pre-revolution one, and define interactions of the main state, and non-state actors participating in waste collecting activities. How did the Soviet authorities solve the dilemma of rags collection in a society with limited access to material and food resources and a poor population? Which practices from a modern standpoint are useful and which are unacceptable? Placing this case in a European context will broaden the field of research on the European consumption culture in the 1920s and 1930s and the formation of recycling practices in neighboring states that had different political systems.
During her research stay, Dr. Perga plans to review the literature on the topic of the project in the library of Aleksanteri Institute and the University of Helsinki with the aim to conceptualize information found in the Ukrainian archives.
(15 September – 15 November 2022)
Dr Balihar Sanghera is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent. His research interests include moral economy and political economy. He particularly focuses on power, morality and resistance in Central Asia, and class and social justice in the charitable sector. He uses moral economy to examine, interrogate and evaluate the ethical dimensions of economic and social life. His research and teaching are postdisciplinary, intertwining social theory, ethics, politics, development studies and critical realism. He has published in leading journals, including Cambridge Journal of Economics, Capital and Class, Theory and Society, International Sociology and The Sociological Review. His recent books are Rentier Capitalism and Its Discontents: Power, Morality and Resistance in Central Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) co-authored with Elmira Satybaldieva, and Ethics, Economy and Social Science: Dialogues with Andrew Sayer (Routledge, 2022), co-edited with Gideon Calder.
Current research project
Many studies describe the rise of populist political forces as posing a challenge to liberal democracy. Rather than writing off the politics of the weak and poor as reactionary or ‘illiberal’, this research project seeks to understand the nature of their social struggles and moral concerns. It examines the attitudes and values of the so-called ‘illiberal’ social forces (e.g. patriotic and religious networks) in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. These social forces have emerged partly in response to elites’ economic and political domination, widespread social suffering and a sense of inequality. The feelings and evaluations of leaders and activists of these illiberal forces are understood on their own terms, without juxtaposing them to ‘liberal’ values. In doing so, their emotions and lay morality are revealed. Their accounts combine both descriptions of how the world is, and aspirations of how the world ought to be. The project also identifies what cultural and moral discourses are used to shape, justify and legitimise their views.
The research project aims to address the following key questions:
In the first four weeks of his stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr Sanghera plans to analyse qualitative data from his recent fieldwork in Central Asia. Official reports and documents produced by the state ministries and financial institutions will also be analysed. He will develop several key themes to analyse how social movements use different discursive and political strategies to articulate their concerns and pursue their goals. During the remaining time of the stay, he will write up his analysis into working papers.
Anna Shapovalova is an affiliated researcher at Sciences Po Paris and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bologna. Her research interests include transnational history of communism, history of international relations, political and social history of the Soviet Union, and political justice. Her PhD was focused on the international dimension of three show trials of the First Five-Year Plan in the USSR and was awarded the prize Joinet in 2021. She is currently involved in the collective project “How Communism went global. Building connections between Soviet, European and African communists (1920s to 1960s)”. She has held fellowships and conducted research at Sciences Po, German Historical Institute Moscow, Université Lille 3, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, Centre Marc Bloch, CEFR, and CIERA (Paris). She has recently co-authored, with Valérie Pozner, “Film phare – film fantôme. Le procès du Parti Industriel en images et en sons» for the leading French journal Cahiers du monde russe.
Current research project
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Anna Shapovalova will pursue her analysis of Soviet show trials under Stalin. As shown in her PhD, for the political leadership, the staged public trials represented a sort of interface between the domestic and foreign policies. The systematic presence of the international dimension in these trials is influenced by ideological considerations that are central in the launching and realization of the Plan itself. At the same time, it is also used both as a means to mobilize European public opinion and as a leverage in commercial negotiations with foreign powers.
During the research visit, Dr. Shapovalova will further explore this latter dimension – the intersection of Stalinist show trials with international economic and commercial negotiations. Historians have hardly addressed this curious interdependence, let alone in a comparative perspective over the time. The cross-analysis of Soviet and European sources – related both to several domestic trials and international negotiations – is therefore a necessary precondition to make the very issue of coincidence between these two phenomena visible and to re-examine Soviet decision-making process and its action. While in Helsinki, Shapovalova will deepen her analysis of this topic by analyzing new archival material collected after the completion of her PhD. The resultant article with a working title In the Shadow of Ideology: International Economic Dimension of Stalinist Early Show Trials (1928-1933) will contribute to our understanding of the porous boundaries between ideology, law, politics and economy in the interwar Soviet Union.
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Markku Kangaspuro, Anatoly Pinsky
Maryna Shevtsova is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie EUTOPIA-SIF COFUND Postdoctoral fellow and a Visiting Professor at the Sociology Department, the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and a Senior FWO Fellow at KU Leuven, Belgium. Maryna has a PhD degree in Political Science from Humboldt University, Berlin. She was a Swedish Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Lund (2020) and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Florida, USA 2018/19. Her most recent publications include books LGBTI Politics and Value Change in Ukraine and Turkey: Exporting Europe? (Routledge, 2021), LGBTQ+ Activism in Central and Eastern Europe. Resistance, Representation, and Identity (with Radzhana Buyantueva, Palgrave Macmillan 2019), and LGBTI Asylum Seekers and Refugees from a Legal and Political Perspective: Persecution, Asylum, and Integration (with Arzu Guler and Deniz Venturi, Springer, 2019).
Current research project
During her stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr. Shevtsova will continue work on her 5-year research project, Resistances to Gender and Sexual Equalities in Eastern Partnership Countries: Ethno-Nationalism and Gendered Nationhood in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. In particular, she will be working on the qualitative data collected in Ukraine and Georgia in 2021/22. She will also work on an edited volume Gendering war in Ukraine, a collection of essays by Ukrainian and Central and Eastern European scholars providing feminist perspectives on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The research project carried out by Dr. Shevtsova addresses the implications that growing right-wing populism has for democratic development in the Eastern European region. It seeks to offer insights on new forms of transnational mobilization and resistances to gender equality and LGBTI rights within specific regional and national settings. Using a combination of methodological approaches, such as frame analysis, discourse analysis, ethnography, visual, and content analysis, the project sets the following objectives:
Focusing on three EaP states, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, the project seeks to examine how geopolitical and cultural context shapes political practices of right-wing populist parties to answer the following Research Question: What are the political, legal, and social implications of right-wing mobilization and backlash politics for Europeanization of national gender and sexual equality policies in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine?
(15 January – 15 March 2023)
Gavin Slade is an associate professor of sociology at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. He is a criminologist who studies jurisdictions in the former Soviet Union. He has a particular interest in prison systems, organized crime and the evolution of policing. He is the author of Reorganizing Crime: Mafia and Anti-Mafia in Post-Soviet Georgia (Oxford University Press: 2013). Slade has also recently concluded a comparative case study of prisoner societies under conditions of penal reform in four countries – Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.
Current research project
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Slade will be writing up results from a project on the culture of punishment in Russia and Kazakhstan. He is the international lead and co-investigator on the project. The central goals of the project are to explain dynamics in prison rates over time, analyse elite and popular attitudes to punishment, as well as examine how punishment is represented and consumed in cultural products such as film, music and museum exhibits. As well as collecting data at the national level, certain regions where significant Gulag camps existed for long periods of time in Kazakhstan and Russia were selected as research sites. The project is a collaboration between the University of Strathclyde (UK), Nazarbayev University and the Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg and partners with local institutions including the Gulag Museum in Moscow and the Prison Service of Kazakhstan. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK and has been running since 2018.
Mikhail Turchenko is an independent scholar, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at the European University at St. Petersburg until June 2022. In 2019, he received a PhD in Political Science from the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), Moscow, Russia. From 2013 to 2020 he worked at the HSE, St. Petersburg. He was a visiting scholar at Indiana University Bloomington in the fall of 2017.
His research interests deal with Russian politics, with an emphasis on elections and subnational politics. He is also interested in studying electoral malpractice in authoritarian regimes and popular threats to them. His research has been published in Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Europe-Asia Studies, Post-Soviet Affairs, Problems of Post-Communism, and Russian Politics, among others.
Current research project
Dr. Turchenko is currently studying strategic voting in authoritarian regimes based on data generated by the ‘smart vote’ (‘umnoe golosovanie’) campaign that was designed by the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and implemented during elections held in the country from 2019 to 2021.
He finds two questions worth considering: First, may citizens in electoral authoritarian regimes credibly oppose the undemocratic status quo using regular electoral procedures in the absence of any coalition-building on the opposition parties’ side? Answering this question would contribute to the emerging literature on citizens’ responses to collective anti-regime electoral enterprises, electoral behavior, and attitudes towards elections in autocracies. Second, may strategic voting somehow influence electoral engineering in nondemocratic regimes? Answering this question adds to the emerging literature on studying electoral systems in dictatorships.
During his stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr. Turchenko will be focusing on combining the research on strategic voting in Russia with his expertise in electoral engineering in Russian regions to start a book manuscript.
(25 November 2022 – 25 January 2023)
Oane Visser is associate professor at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, Erasmus University, chairing the Political Ecology group. He has been visiting professor at University of Oxford, University of Toronto, IAMO and Cornell University. Visser is research fellow at the Independent Social Research Foundation (London) and has a longstanding research focus on Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia at large. Research topics include land reform, land grabbing, financialization, (rural) social movements, (peri)urban agriculture, sustainability, food security and geopolitics. Recent projects examine digitalization, automation and innovation in the agrifood sector, in Eastern Europe, Netherlands, US and Ghana. Visser has been PI of projects funded by e.g.; Toyota Foundation, European Research Council, Landac and ISRF. He is editor of Focaal- Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. Visser edited 5 special issues, and published in journals like Europe-Asia Studies, Globalizations, Journal of Rural Studies, Journal of Cleaner Production, and Post-Communist Economies.
Current research project
This project investigates how digital innovation unfolds in the context of Russia, with its strong state involvement and an autarchic turn. It focuses on agriculture, where large farms (‘agroholdings’) are increasingly using technologies like drones, GPS-steered combines, big data and AI. The project asks how Russia’s longer-standing policy of food self-sufficiency, intersects with the new rush to build up technological sovereignty in response to Western sanctions. Drawing on earlier fieldwork and new desk-top research, it subsequently investigates what implications such techno-politics have for Russian agriculture, and global food security. Over the past decade Russia transformed into the World’s largest grain exporter, with numerous African and Middle Eastern countries heavily dependent on its wheat. Russia’s importance as food exporter is expected to rise further, with climate change bound to affect more southern located grain-exporting countries negatively. As such, the trajectory of agricultural innovation (or lack thereof) will have implications far beyond Russia itself.
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr. Visser will work on finalizing a first article on the above-mentioned topic, while also doing some desktop research for a follow-up publication.
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Daria Gritsenko, Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen