Over the Wall/After the Fall
Post-Communist Cultures through an East-West Gaze
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: Indiana University Press
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Over a decade has passed since the ‘‘fall’’ of communism in Eastern Europe, the surprising ﬂowering of glasnost in the Soviet Union, the free elections in Poland that started the visible process of change, and the picturesque dismantling of the Berlin Wall. To great hurrah, various societies, formerly more-or-less closed toward the West, have opened to all the excesses of Western-style...
Introduction: Mapping Postsocialist Cultural Studies
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Wislawa Szymborska’s lyric ‘‘Psalm’’ raises many of the issues central tothis collection, describing play and motion across borders in space, time, thought, and discipline. The poem’s appearance in English translation also embodies the zone that interests us: contact between the ubiquitous ‘‘West,’’ particularly North America and Western Europe, and the cultures, literatures,...
Part One (Re-) Visitations
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The authors in this collection stress the need for persistent scholarly and political attention to past and future, for returns to history as well as leaps forward—but not in simple mechanical repetition. Rather, they emphasize cyclicality, the ebb and flow of patterns of discourse and historical analyses. Hence the title of this section, which emphasizes (uneasy) returns...
1: How I Found Eastern Europe: Televisual Geography, Travel Sites, and Museum Installations
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In the fall of 1995 the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago hosted the ﬁrst (traveling) exhibit of ‘‘Eastern European’’ art in the United States after 1989. The question of how to respond to the interpellation of being ‘‘Eastern European’’ drove me to the exhibit; the same question troubles this essay. As a Romanian and an academic in the United States,1 I access ‘‘Eastern Europe’’...
2: The Nation In Between; or, Why Intellectuals do Things with Words
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Much as in other former socialist countries, contemporary Belarusian intellectual discourse is focused on the idea of a return to Europe. The idea is mostly based on the belief that the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a Belarusian state, with old Belarusian as its language of state communication, legal documents, and the first printed books, and the idea of the return to Europe...
3: Prenzlauer Berg Connections: The Trajectory of East German Samizdat Culture from Socialism to Capitalism
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East German writers and artists found themselves in a unique situation after the fall of the Wall. Unlike states that suddenly gained their national independence, East Germany buckled under the cultural and economic domination of West Germany. After the German monetary union, artists and writers had to begin searching for resources in an acutely competitive climate. Political bias...
4: Reading Transparent "Constructions of History"; or, Three Passages through (In) Visible Warsaw
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Many years after Polish émigrée writer Maria Kuncewicz described walking through her beloved Warsaw on the brink of World War II, Elizabeth Wilson used similar imagery to map the modern city: ‘‘[O]ne never retraces the same pathway twice, for the city is [in] a constant process of change, and thus becomes dreamlike and magical, yet also terrifying in the way a dream can be...
5: Can Prague Learn from L.A.? Frank Gehry's Netherlands National Building in Prague
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As the countries of East and Central Europe emerge from under the weight of Soviet occupation, they each face a variety of urban challenges, from rebuilding Bosnia-Herzegovina to protecting historic districts from the corrosive inﬂuence of unbridled new development. The issue of weighing historic preservation against new development has been at the center of the debate over the...
6: Heteroglossia and Linguistic Neocolonialism: English Teaching in Post-1989 Poland
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For the length and breadth of the former communist bloc, from the Czech Republic to Kazakhstan and from Estonia to Armenia, a largely unreported yet vitally important battle has been lost and won over the last dozen years: the struggle over what is to be the dominant foreign language for the new East.The loser in this battle is Russian; the victor, without a shadow of a doubt,...
7: Projections of Desire: Robert D. Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts and the Crisis of Self-Definition
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Robert D. Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History is a successful travel book. The classiﬁcation doubles its success, since the genre has lost momentum in the last century and a half. Good travel books are rare, according to Kaplan, because of the decline of travel itself: ‘‘In a world rapidly becoming homogenized through the proliferation of luxury hotels, mass tourism...
Part Two: (Re-) Adaptations
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In school, we all knew that Pawel’s father was a prominent Party ofﬁcial. He had things none of the rest of us had—real blue jeans, trips abroad, special lessons, any book or toy he wanted. (At that time, feeling jealous, no doubt, I often thought that the healthy ﬂush on his cheeks resembled the shape of the Soviet Union.) Even aside from the fact that no teacher...
8: Shifting a Cultural Paradigm: Between the Mystique and the Marketing of Polish Theatre
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It will not be controversial, I suspect, to suggest that post-communist Polish culture has sprung a not-so-subtle surprise on even its most astute interpreters. In the early 1990s, when I began research for this essay during one of my (all-too-) many furloughs from work on Polish cultural mythology, leading Polish intellectuals were enthusiastic about the prospects of culture in new...
9: "Hurrah, I'm Still Alive!": East German Products Demonstrating East German Identities
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‘‘Our Cola’’—who are ‘‘we’’? What kind of ‘‘we’’ could claim, in early 1992, that ‘‘the Cola from Berlin’’ is one of ‘‘ours’’? Who hides behind this strong possessive pronoun with its very own peculiar history in the GDR? How could advertising strategists dare to present this manner of word association in public, one which to this day resonates powerfully with...
10: Cryptographic Art of Bratislava: Configurations of Absence in Post-Communist Installation Art
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The American public has been weaned on formalist and a historical art theory. We are seduced by spectacle, obsessed with the present and with presence.The enduring subject of American art, linking the work of Pollock, Johns, Smithson, and Warhol, is the ‘‘act’’ itself—not so much a rite but a record of individual will in the ledger of a secular universe. Our art world is contoured...
11: "Move Over Madonna": Gender, Representation, and The "Mystery" of Bulgarian Voices
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When New York Times critic Jon Pareles wrote ‘‘Move over Madonna, taste-makers on two continents are embracing a Bulgarian women’s choir’’ (1988, 27), he both reﬂected and promoted the Bulgarian music craze that swept the United States and Western Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Whereas people used to stare at me incredulously when I said I was studying Bulgarian...
12: Four Bearings of West for the Lviv Bohema
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In this essay, I will focus on one particular subject within the realm of post-Soviet Ukrainian culture—a loosely assembled group of intellectuals, centered on the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv, informally and occasionally referred to as Lvivs’ka Bohema (The Lviv Bohema). The people associated with this group were among the most proliﬁc and inﬂuential creative individuals in the...
13: "Don't Get Pricked!": Representation and the Politics of Sexuality in the Czech Republic
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Many Czech social scientists know something about the changing ways male and female sexualities have been understood and represented in Czech society in the post-1989 period, but hardly anyone has written about them.1 This is all the more striking since sexuality is embedded in and inﬂuences other social, political, and economic trends, such as changes in political rhetoric...
Afterword: From Big Brother to Big Burger (And What's the Grand Narrative Got to Do with It?)
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Today, in the era of the Small Narratives, good academic taste dictates that we must commence every great revelation with a jazzy personal confession. For instance, if you want to coddle your reader, begin with something pure and innocent like your earliest memories of the Eucharist, describe the crumb quivering on the moustache of Uncle Ben, and then make an elegant transition toward your...
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Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 31 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2004