USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies

2023 Recipient

Rory Finnin

Blood of Others: Stalin’s Crimean Atrocity and the Poetics of Solidarity

The University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Rory Finnin
Title: Blood of Others: Stalin’s Crimean Atrocity and the Poetics of Solidarity (University of Toronto Press)

Rory Finnin’s Blood of Others is a critical landmark in the larger field of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Arguing for a reorientation of cultural attention to the Black Sea region, Finnin investigates a “poetics of solidarity” spanning across literature from four languages—Crimean Tatar, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Russian—and across even more ethnicities and countries. While casting doubt on post-Soviet Russian avant-garde poet Igor Sid’s particular embodiment of the “geopoetics” project Sid initiated, Finnin nevertheless makes a case for a “geopoetics” in which Crimean Tatar history and activism loom large in a project to understand and address events and movements in Crimea today, as well as in the larger post-Soviet sphere, not least in Ukraine. Finnin draws on critical theorists of the 1980s and 1990s—Frederic Jameson, Michel Foucault, Wolfgang Iser, Roman Jakobson—, on post-colonial theory—Homi Bhabha, Edward Saïd, Gayatri Spivak—, and on philosophy—Richard Rorty, Martha Nussbaum—, to create a robust theoretical framework for understanding how literature can work to inspire “pro-social action” and transnational political solidarity across diverse groups experiencing oppression. He grounds this framework in a breathtaking array of materials, from canonical literature to pulp fiction, historic news journalism, feuilletons, anthems, films, government decrees, KGB reports, and court transcripts. He pays special attention to poetry, punctuating his close readings of poems with scenes of encounters across Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian, and Russian communities. He is at his most engaging when demonstrating the exciting encounters and dense intertwining of these cultures in a tradition of dissidence that was, as he persuasively shows, inspired by Crimean Tatar activists in the wake of the 1944 deportations, and that continues today in the face of continued and violently aggressive Russian imperialism.

Honorable Mention: Christina Crawford