The Russian Empire and its Soviet successor occupied a unique geographic and cultural space, hosting a complex culture of Orthodox and Islamic peoples. Before the Russian Revolution, the empire sat astride multiple trade routes across Eurasia, linking east and west as well as north and south, benefitting from its Asian and Middle Eastern connections to import luxuries as easily as its more famous neighbors in Europe. In the Soviet era, as the leader of the emergent Communist world, it both emerged as an exporter of essential products to its satellite states and navigated a new path in the global economy to retain its relationships with global capital.
“Materials and Materiality” will be an interdisciplinary workshop that considers material culture not only in terms of consumption but also in terms of production and its secondary life of resale, inheritance, or even destruction or loss. We hope to draw upon scholars studying different regions in the Russian and Soviet empires to reveal the process of localizing commodities by unpacking the articulation of consumption habits as different ethno-linguistic groups refashioned the product within their own cultural contexts. Russia’s position at the crossroads of multiple international networks, where different cultural adoptions reinforced regional variations among the diverse populations of the empire, will allow us to consider the ways in which goods engendered relationships between Russia and the wider world of Islam, Asia, and Europe.
The workshop will be held at the University of Toronto in May 2019 as a two-day event. We will be publishing an edited volume from the proceedings of the conference, similar in organization to Russian History through the Senses, coedited by Romaniello and Starks and published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2016.
Please submit proposals for individual papers no later than 15 October 2018; we suggest a subject line of “Material 2019” to make sure you receive full consideration. Submissions should include a 150-200 word abstract as well as a brief (1-2 page) C.V. The organizers will make their decisions by the end of October.