Archive for ‘russia’

24 September 2011

Twitter @discoursology

At least one of the Berlin-based discoursologists is now able to communicate in less than 140 characters…. @discoursology #discourse #media #ethnography #russia #theory

24 May 2011

Journalism and the Political

New book announcement:
Macgilchrist, Felicitas (2011): Journalism and the Political: Discursive tensions in news coverage of Russia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture, Vol. 40) (full price; slightly less expensive)

Summary: Journalism is often thought of as the ‘fourth estate’ of democracy. This book suggests that journalism plays a more radical role in politics, and explores new ways of thinking about news media discourse. It develops an approach to investigating both hegemonic discourse and discursive fissures, inconsistencies and tensions. By analysing international news coverage of post-Soviet Russia, including the Beslan hostage-taking, Gazprom, Litvinenko and human rights issues, it demonstrates the (re)production of the ‘common-sense’ social order in which one particular area of the world is more developed, civilized and democratic than other areas. However, drawing on Laclau, Mouffe and other post-foundational thinkers, it also suggests that journalism is precisely the site where the instability of this global social order becomes visible. The book should be of interest to scholars of discourse analysis, journalism and communication studies, cultural studies and political science, and to anyone interested in ‘positive’ discourse analysis and practical counter-discursive strategies.

The thing is, critical discourse analysis has done a huge amount to draw attention to the role of language, and other forms of semiosis, in shaping what counts as politics, as acceptable, as thinkable and “normal”, i.e in what becomes (however temporarily ad precariously) hegemonic. But, how do we now respond to for instance Latour’s call to re-arm? Using very military metaphors, he worries that the critical spirit, now ensnared in deconstruction, may no longer be aligned to the right target.

To remain in the metaphorical atmosphere of the time, military experts constantly revise their strategic doctrines, their contingency plans, the size, direction, technology of their projectiles, of their smart bombs, of their missiles: I wonder why we, we alone, would be saved from those sort of revisions. It does not seem to me that we have been as quick, in academe, to prepare ourselves for new threats, new dangers, new tasks, new targets. Are we not like those mechanical toys that endlessly continue to do the same gesture when everything else has changed around them? Would it not be rather terrible if we were still training young kids–yes, young recruits, young cadets–for wars that cannot be thought, for fighting enemies long gone, for conquering territories that no longer exist and leaving them ill-equipped in the face of threats we have not anticipated, for which we are so thoroughly disarmed? (Latour, Bruno. 2004. “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern.” Critical Inquiry 30(2): 225-48.)

Journalism and the Political is one attempt to retool. It uses a pinch of deconstruction, a splash of CDA and a dash of (other) post-foundational political/cultural theories to explore the fissures and gaps in what seems to be hegemonic discourse. Perhaps a critical spirit, which forces these fissures into the foreground, can widen the gaps, target new threats, and broaden new possibilities?

11 April 2011

The irrational in Russian history and culture

Conference in Moscow next week from 14 to 16 April 2011, at the German Historical Institute. Programme:

Thursday 14 April 2011
9.30-9.45 Welcome
9.45-12.00 Panel 1: The Irrational and Religious Experience

  • Michail Dmitriev (Moskva) 0b irratsional’nom v traditsionnoy pravoslavnoy kul’ture Moskovskoy Rusi i Rossii
  • Ekaterina Emeliantseva (Bangor) Emotional Styles within Ekaterina Tatarinova’s Spiritual Brotherhood (1817-37)
  • Irina Paert (Tallinn) Preternatural, Irrational, Bizarre and the Russian spiritual elders (startsy)
  • Page Herrlinger (Bowdoin College) Healing Russia: Religious and Secular Perspectives on the “Miraculous” powers of brother Ioann Churikov in St. Petersburg, 1894-1917

12.00-12.20 Coffee Break

12.20-14.00 Panel 2: Anthropology/Narodnaya kul’tura

  • Jule Herzberg (Munich) On the Rationality of Dreams: Visions, Nightmares, and Dreams in Peasant Writing from Tsarist and Soviet Russia
  • Anton Salmin (Sankt-Peterburg) Znacharstvo u chuvashey kak irratsional’noe yavlenie
  • Ekaterina Chodzhaeva (Kazan’) «Sumasshedshie» i militsionery

14.00-15.30 Lunch

15.30-17.15 Panel 3: Literature

  • Mariya Mayofis (Moskva) Sumasshestvie, slaboumie ili sotsial’nyy nevroz? Poet Aleksandr Kvashnin-Samarin
  • Ilya Vinitsky (Pennsylvania) Mystical Undercurrents of Russian Realism
  • Nikolay Bogomolov (Moskva) Simvolizm kak pogranichnoe sostoyanie: vzglyad iznutri i izvne

Friday 15 April 2011
10.00-11.45 Panel 4: Psychology

  • Michail Velizhev (Moskva) Chaadaevskoe delo 1836g. i istoriya bezumiya v Rossii
  • Sabina Maier (Moscow) Analyzing Dostoevsky: Concepts of the Irrational in Early Russian Psychoanalysis
  • Gregori Dyufo (Paris) Ratsional’naya organizatsiya dlya bol’nych umov? Psichiatricheskie uchrezhdeniya v Sovetskom Soyuze 1920-ch godov

11.45-12.15 Coffee

12.15-13.50 Panel 5: The Irrational Self

  • Lynn Patyk (Florida) The Terrorist State of Mind: I. Kaliaev
  • Julia Mannherz (Oxford) Occultism and Irrational Insight
  • Polina Barskova (Hampshire College) The Super-Fantastic Reality of Historical Disaster: The Siege Self in Contact with the Irrational (1941-1944)

14.00-15.30 Lunch

Trip to Muzey istorii Moskovskoy gorodskoy psichiatricheskoy bol’nitsy im. N.A. Alekseeva

Saturday 16 April 2011
10.00-11.45 Panel 6: Musical and Literary Aesthetics

  • Rebecca Mitchell (Urbana-Champaign) In Search of Orpheus: Music and Irrationality in Late imperial Russia
  • Amrei Flechsig (Hannover) The multi-faceted Russian irrational in Music: Alfred Schnittke’s opera Life with an Idiot
  • Yelena Karlinsky (Rutgers) Performance Vision: Psychic Break and Aesthetic experience in Andrei Monastyrskii’s Kashirskoe shosse

11.45-12.15 Coffee Break

12.15-13.50 Panel 7: Science

  • Nikolay Mitrochin (Bremen) Sovetskaya intelligentsiya v poiskach chuda: religioznost’ i paranauka v SSSR v 1953-1985 godach
  • Aleksandr Panchenko (St. Petersburg) “Sacred energies”: History of Science and Esoteric Culture in Twentieth Century Russia

12.55-14.00 Concluding Discussion

11 December 2010

Putin: Assange’s arrest a danger to democracy

Beautiful. Putin sees the arrest of the WikiLeaks boss as a threat to democracy.

Die Festnahme des WikiLeaks-Gründers Julian Assange zeugt laut dem russischen Regierungschef Wladimir Putin von Demokratie-Defiziten.

So kommentierte Putin die von der Enthüllungsplattform WikiLeaks veröffentlichten Geheimdepeschen von US-Diplomaten, in denen unter anderem die Lage der Demokratie in Russland kritisiert wird. (more)

…via florian bischof on twitter…

Update. The English verison via AP via The Hindu:

Putin: Assange arrest undemocratic

LONDON: While U.S. government and its allies have criticised WikiLeaks, some world leaders have questioned the arrest of its founder Julian Assange.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, questioning the reliability of leaked U.S. cables referring to his nation as undemocratic and corrupt, said the fact that Mr. Assange was in custody shows the West has its own problems with democracy.

“Why was Mr. Assange hidden in prison?” Mr. Putin asked at a news conference. “Is this democracy?”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he was surprised by the lack of outcry against Mr. Assange’s arrest. “This WikiLeaks guy was arrested and I’m not seeing any protest for freedom of expression,” said Mr. da Silva in Brasilia. “There is nothing, nothing for freedom of expression and against the imprisonment of this guy who was doing better work than many of the Ambassadors.”

U.N.’s top human rights official Navi Pillay raised the alarm over officials’ and corporations’ moves to cut off WikiLeaks’ funding and starve it of server space — something she described as a “potentially violating WikiLeaks’ right to freedom of expression”.

The Obama administration has put intense pressure on U.S.-based companies to cut any ties to WikiLeaks, and many have done so, including MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc.,, PayPal Inc. and EveryDNS. In the Netherlands, a 16-year-old boy suspected of being involved in digital attacks by Wikileaks supporters was arrested. — AP

3 December 2010

Russian bloggers and political change

Via Global Voices, a community portal reporting on blog and citizen’s media around the world, I came across a story about Marina Litvinovich, blogger, civic rights and human rights activist in Russia. (Her Russian blog here.) She talks about the increasingly important role of blogs as investigative journalism in Russia.

First we have to talk about a special place that LiveJournal plays in the Russian blogosphere. LiveJournal blogs have a tremendous impact on politics and news agenda. Mainstream media are losing their foothold as a sole provider of information and blogs are stepping up. Bloggers are also independent interpreters of events. In many news events, the first interpretation is very important. When the blogosphere interprets the news, it is like a soup that is being cooked in front of your eyes.

28 September 2010


This is the kind of ironic critique of common-sense that I love. Even though it’s a Mail on Sunday (!) blog. (I have mixed feelings about Peter Hitchins: interesting take on Russia and on “the West’s” approach to post-Soviet Russia; dubious take on the EU.).

As Ukrainians force Russians to turn their back on their language and change their names, I ask, is this the world’s most absurd city?

Imagine some future Brussels edict has finally broken up Britain and handed Devon and Cornwall over to rule by Wales.

Imagine the Royal Navy, much shrunk and renamed the English Navy, being told it has to share Plymouth with a new Welsh fleet; that is, if it is allowed to stay there at all.

Picture the scene as cinemas in Plymouth and Exeter are forced to dub all their films into Welsh, while schools teach anti-English history and children are pressed to learn Welsh.

Street signs are in Welsh. TV is in Welsh. Police cars patrolling Dartmoor have ‘Heddlu’ blazoned on them, banks have become ‘bancs’ and taxis ‘tacsis’.

Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall are cut off by a frontier from the rest of England, closing down industries with English links, and people are issued with new identity documents with Welsh names.

Utterly mad and unthinkable, you might say. And you would be right. But something very similar has happened in what used to be the Soviet Union, and we are supposed to think it is a good thing – because Russia is officially a bad country, and its former subject nations are therefore automatically good. […]

I think our treatment of Russia since the fall of communism has been almost unbelievably stupid and crude. We complain now about the autocratic rule of Vladimir Putin. But it was our greed and our bullying of the wounded bear that created Putin and his shady, corrupt state. […]

No, I am not an apologist for Comrade Putin. I like Russia, and wish it had a better government. I think it would have done if we had been more thoughtful after 1991. […]

This sublimely silly development meant that Russia’s main naval base [Sevastopol] was suddenly in a foreign country, and its inhabitants became aliens in their own land. It gets more ridiculous. On one side of the harbour, a fortress bears the slogan ‘Glory to the Russian navy!’ A strongpoint a mile away is adorned with a banner proclaiming ‘Glory to the Ukrainian navy!’

Sevastopol’s deputy mayor, Pyotr Kudryashov, knows all about this rivalry. By an accident of history, his son Sergei, 30, and his daughter Anna, 35, are both serving at sea as naval officers – but Anna is in a Russian ship, and Sergei is in a Ukrainian one.

Both wanted to join a navy, and each joined the one that was recruiting when they graduated. In theory, if the New Cold War ever turns hot, they could be firing missiles at each other.


…with thanks to Athol for keeping me up-to-date on media discourse on Russia!

Tags: ,
26 September 2010

Russland als Gaskammer

At least that’s how the Bild Zeitung translates “gas vault” into German! Bildblog reports.

24 September 2010

Putin and gas

…searching for an image to accompany a paper I’ll be presenting soon on globalisation and subjectivation, and I came across this delightful street art:

Topic’s a bit old now – more gas troubles… but the picture’s still great. And it’s still about Putin, not Medvedev – even in the year 2010!

Image (c) Alexander Gorlin from flickr via cafe babel (jan 2010).

Tags: ,
8 September 2010

New cold war research

This looks to me like a generational shift. A new approach to Cold War studies. Call for proposals for the New Cold War Research workshop at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, 1-2 November 2010.

The purpose of this workshop is to draw special attention to the interconnected relations of trade, technology and competition during the Cold War era. The Cold War period has been viewed by the mainstream literature as an East-West juxtaposition, emphasizing conflict and confrontation between the blocs. The focus of the New Cold War Research workshop is, however, on cooperation and interactions between East and West, which have been mostly overlooked or underestimated. The workshop intends to look at Europe as an arena where East and West met and established relations that resembled, in many cases,the traditional pre-Cold War contact networks. […]

The workshop aims to discuss how trade and the transfer of technology affected the rise of competitiveness inside of the Eastern Bloc. We invite papers that would elaborate the above-mentioned topic. We are particularly interested in:

  • What this East-West trade and technology transfer was all about? How were trade connections established and maintained during the Cold War era? What were the motivations behind the established connections and what kind of technologies were transferred?
  • How did economic relations induce the rise of market economic thinking in the Eastern Bloc? What kind of forms did the competition take in socialist societies? How did the economic-related competitiveness that occurred influence these societies from inside?

We invite all interested parties to participate in the workshop by sending an abstract (max 400 words) as a proposal to Sari Autio-Sarasmo ( and Katalin Miklóssy ( by September 24, 2010. Selected participants will be informed by October 1, 2010.The aim of the workshop is to produce a special edited journal selected from the presented papers.

6 September 2010

Digital Icons

Issue 3 of Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media is now available online.

Between Big Brother and the Digital Utopia: e-Governance in Post-Totalitarian Space

This issue of Digital Icons explores the practice of e-participation and e-governance in post-Soviet, post-communist countries, focusing on three main geographical areas, Central Europe (Slovakia), Russia, and Central Asia. The use of information and communications technology to overcome traditional difficulties associated with the interaction of the state and its citizens represents a double-edged sword in post-totalitarian space. For many, the coming of digitized governance heralds an end to needless bureaucracy, countless hours wasted in queues, and access to hitherto unavailable government services. For others, however, the expansion of the state into the virtual realm is a harbinger of a dystopian future where the panopticon is always watching, and even the most private thoughts of citizens are monitored and recorded by the state. This issue of Digital Icons aims to examine the inherent tension between these two extremes.

3.0 Editorial (Vlad Strukov)

3.1 State of Ambivalence: Turkmenistan in the Digital Age (Annasoltan)

3.2 E-government and Transparency in Authoritarian Regimes (Erica Johnson and Beth E. Kolko)

3.3 Citizens Speak Out: Public e-Engagement Experience of Slovakia (Anton Shynkaruk)

3.4 Digital Citizenship and the Future of the Discipline (Interview with Stephen Coleman) (Vlad Strukov)

3.5 Cultural Citizenship in the Television/New Media Interface (Sudha Rajagopalan)

3.6 ‘Electronic Russia’: Reality or (Empty) Promises? (Interview with Ivan Ninenko) (Polina Baigarova)

3.7 Reports and Commentaries

3.8 Book Reviews

The full issue is available online on in English, German and Russian.