Olessia Kirtchik:‘Behind common images of intransigent opposition, an exciting story of parallel developments, hidden connections, mutual interest emerges’
On October 17-19, 2013 the international conference ‘Social and Human Sciences on Both Sides of the “Iron Curtain”’ organized by the HSE Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities will be held in Moscow.
This international conference is intended to put together research findings on the history of social and human sciences in the capitalist West and the socialist East during the second half of the 20th century. HSE news service will publish a series of materials on the conference.
Olessia Kirtchik, senior research fellow at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, member of the programme committee of the conference spoke to HSE news service about the conference and why this is such an intriguing area of study.
— What are the goals of the conference?
— The history and sociology of the Cold War social and human sciences is an exciting topic of growing interest as witnessed by a series of conferences and publications of very high quality which have taken place especially in last five years in Great Britain, United States, France and other countries. Most of these academic events and publications are dealing with the Western European and North American context, while the “Eastern” or “Socialist” part of the story is virtually absent from discussion. For various reasons this field of study is still only at the germination stage in Russia. Nevertheless, we received many responses to our call for papers from scholars working on the history of social and human sciences on both sides of the Iron Curtain, while some of them attempting a comparative analysis. This meeting is conceived as one of the first occasions to bring together these different perspectives. I believe such a dialogue might be insightful for all participants. Another important goal of this conference is to familiarize our social scientists and students with the scholarship on the Cold War social sciences.
— Could you tell us about the participants and highlight the discussion issues?
— This conference has a truly international and multidisciplinary orientation. Most of the participants are historians, philosophers and sociologists coming from the United States and Europe (Germany, France, UK, Czech Republic, and other countries). Among our speakers are young as well as established researchers, such as Philip Mirowski, one of the most important historians and philosophers of economics of the post War period, author of the book Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science Cambridge University Press, 2001. The confrontation of national and disciplinary contexts is an important issue proposed for discussions at thematic sessions embracing very different topics from economic modeling to philosophy.
— What's most exciting for you as a researcher in the history of social and human sciences in the second half of the 20th century?
— As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the Cold War on the history of social and human sciences in the Soviet Union remains a large and almost unknown field. I’d like to invite colleagues, especially younger ones, to look closely at this research area. For me personally, the most intellectually challenging and motivating thing was to discover, behind common images of intransigent opposition, of two mutually exclusive societal and political alternatives, an exciting story of parallel developments, hidden connections, mutual interest, and knowledge transfers. This kind of historical and comparative investigation also enlightens us on the impact of different ideological and institutional contexts on scientific practices and cultures.
— What would you recommend for young people to read to understand the processes which happened in the second half of the 20th century?
— In recent years, we’ve seen a quite impressive flow of scholarly literature dealing with the development of different social and human science disciplines after the Second World War. I believe the interest of this literature transcends the borders of specialized sub-disciplines, because the history of knowledge and technology is essential to our understanding of the political and social history of contemporary societies. Just to mention a few:
Mark Solovey, Hamilton Cravens, eds. 2012. Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature. Palgrave Macmillan.
Roger E. Backhouse, Philippe Fontaine. 2010. The History of the Social Sciences since 1945. Cambridge University Press.
Engerman, D. C., Gilman, N., Haefele, M. H., & Latham, M. E. 2003. Staging growth: Modernization, development, and the global Cold War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
— How did the HSE start and develop cooperation with international researchers on this topic? What plans do you have for further cooperation?
— Cooperation with some of the participants started long before the conference as part of various projects with researchers at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities and with the Research and educational group for Social Studies of Economic Knowledge. Besides, the conference has brought many new people thanks to a very large circulation of the call for contributions. As long as sociology and history of knowledge remains one of the IGITI’s main areas of focus, we hope to maintain these old and new contacts while developing new cooperative projects. In the short term, we’re planning to publish the most interesting conference papers in an edited volume offering a comparative perspective on the history of social sciences and humanities on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Dr Anna Whittington is currently a Research Fellow at The International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences through the end of August 2019. She recently spoke with the HSE News Service about her work on changes in Soviet-era language policy, her thoughts on life in Moscow and how the city has changed, and much more.
Exploring Political and Cultural Space of St Petersburg through the Summer School 'Topography of Imperial Power'
On a grey autumn day, it is always nice to warm up by reliving memories of summer adventures. This year, the balmy weather did not leave our city till mid-October, and a summer mood also lingered at HSE University – St Petersburg with the IV International Summer School 'The Topography of Imperial Power: Political and Cultural Space of Saint Petersburg' which ran from September 11 till October 2, 2018.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and HSE University – St Petersburg launch the Paulsen Programme, funded by the Dr Frederik Paulsen Foundation, in order to support historians in Russia who have been working on the period from the mid 17th century to 1918.
Alexandra Kolesnik, Junior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at HSE’s Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities recently completed her post graduate studies in History and successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled ‘Historical representations in British popular musical culture of the 1960-1980s’. Here, Alexandra talks about her research into modern pop-culture.
Jessica Werneke, who completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa and her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, joined the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and its Consequences as a Research Fellow in 2016. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, she has spent a considerable amount of time living internationally – in both the UK and Latvia – and following her post-doc plans to start a new position as a Newton International Fellow of the British Academy at Loughborough University, where she will continue her research on Soviet photography clubs and amateur photographers in the RSFSR and the Baltic Republics.
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On October 11, Professor Dominic Lieven of the University of Cambridge, where he serves as Senior Research Fellow, Trinity College, gave a public lecture at HSE St Petersburg entitled ‘Reflections on empire, Russia and historical comparison’. The event was organized by the Center for Historical Research.
A hundred years has passed since the October Revolution of 1917, but this event still hasn’t reached its logical conclusion. Its consequences are still crucial in defining the political system in Russia today and fostering divisions in society, believes Andrey Medushevsky, Professor at the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences, political scientist, historian and author of the book A Political History of the Russian Revolution: Norms, Institutions and Forms of Social Mobilization in the 20th Century.
Department of History at HSE St. Petersburg is focusing on a global, comparative and transnational approach to historical studies, and cooperates with several European and American research centers. One of its primary partners is German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which sponsors a position of an Associate Professor for a German scholar, and Dietmar Wulff, the current resident, told The HSE Look about his three years at the department and plans for the future.
On October 10, Stephen Wheatcroft, Professor of the School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne delivered a lecture on ‘The importance of the grain problem in the Russian Revolution and for the next 40 years of Soviet Economics' at HSE Moscow as part of a long and busy schedule. A participant at previous April Conferences at HSE, Professor Wheatcroft is one of the world’s foremost experts on Soviet social, economic and demographic history, as well as famine and food supply problems in modern world history.