This talk follows in the tradition of Donald Treadgold and his work by reaching expansively across the boundaries of the Russian empire and former Soviet worlds. Grant explores the role of satirical experiment in the Caucasus through a focus on the popular, early twentieth-century journal, Molla Nesreddin, and its many afterlives in the Eurasian space that it helped to define. It is a project that moves across disciplines by connecting historical questions of literary genre to political rule, and by grounding these questions in anthropological study of the shared cultural patterns and symbolic logics that have guided normative understandings of authoritarianism, personhood, and propriety in times of great upheaval across this area.
Bruce Grant is Professor of Anthropology at New York University. A specialist on cultural politics in the former Soviet Union, he has done fieldwork in Siberia, central Russia, and the Caucasus. He is author of In the Soviet House of Culture: A Century of Perestroikas (Princeton 1995), a study of the Sovietization of an indigenous people on the Russian Pacific coast; as well as The Captive and the Gift: Cultural Histories of Sovereignty in Russia and the Caucasus (Cornell 2009), on the making of the Caucasus in the Russian popular imagination. He was co-editor of Caucasus Paradigms: Anthropologies, Histories, and the Making of a World Area (LIT 2007) and The Russia Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke 2010). His most recent essay, “The Edifice Complex: Architecture and the Political Life of Surplus in the New Baku,” appeared earlier this year in Public Culture.