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Biopower in Transition: Prisons and Policing during the Long Soviet Collapse


Event Summary

Still from The Apotheosis of the Police, based on the works of Dmitry Alexandrovich Prigov. Via YouTube.

Although scholars of the former Soviet empire and post-Soviet republics have long expressed interest in state violence and control, the discourse and practice of violence have rarely been examined from a contemporary vantage point. This panel, sponsored by the After the End of History project at the Neubauer Collegium, explored shifting modes of policing during the Soviet collapse. How did prison and policing imaginaries evolve amid the economic and infrastructural collapse of the Soviet Union (inflation, power outages, shifting institutional structures, black market arms availability) and as the rise of new nationalisms reorganized discourses of race and ethnicity across the former imperial space? And what can these shifts teach us as we grapple with our own moment of heightened police brutality, failing efforts at centralization, and political and economic collapse?


Ania Aizman, Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Michigan Society of Fellows, University of Michigan

Eliot Borenstein, Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, NYU

Yana Skorobogatov, Assistant Professor of History, Williams College

Cristina Vatulescu, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, NYU