Friday, May 17, 2024

2024 Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Completion Fellows Announced

ASEEES congratulates the 2024 Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Completion Fellows.

Michael Corsi
The Ohio State University

“El Dorado on the Rocks: The Ural Mountains and the Production of Scientific Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Russia” 

My dissertation argues that the Russian empire—its scholars, institutions, and generous funding—was instrumental to the process of global scientific-knowledge production. It takes one part of the Russian empire—the Ural Mountains—as demonstrative of the influence Russia had over nineteenth-century scientific thought. The Urals’ contributions to nineteenth-century science included, among other things, discovery of the first indigenous European diamonds, development of new theories regarding the mineralogical composition of the planet, identification of the Permian geological period, and characterization of global weather systems and biodiversity. Discoveries such as these filled gaps in the scholarly understandings of the time and contributed to some of the most important scientific publications of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, my dissertation also examines intra-imperial networks alongside inter-imperial ones. It traces the ways in which Urals scientists collaborated with other experts and scientific institutions within the Russian empire, thereby demonstrating the contributions of this region to the growth of imperial-era science.

Jessica Ginocchio
English and Comparative Literature
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

“Intersecting Worlds: Animal Consciousness, Reality, and Imagination in Eastern European Fiction” 

“Intersecting Worlds” examines the integration of animal minds into the narrative fabric of primarily Russian fiction across several epochs. From Lev Tolstoy’s war horses to Andrei Platonov’s blacksmith bear, animal points-of-view are used by many of Russia’s most prominent writers, ranging in technique from first-person animal narrators to animals as focal characters within larger narrative frameworks. Structured around three chapters and an epilogue, the project uses careful close readings to characterize representations of animal minds and contextualize them within literary aesthetics, contemporaneous scientific thought, and socio-political conditions. Spanning the period from 1865 until 1930, the central chapters encapsulate an era marked by profound intellectual, scientific, and socio-political shifts. In works by Tolstoy, Chekhov, Bulgakov, and Platonov, we can see the evolution of realism to modernism to early Soviet experimentation. A final epilogue examines the afterlife of these tendencies in the work of contemporary and postmodern writers from both Russia and Ukraine, including Viktor Pelevin, Tatyana Tolstaya, Linor Goralik, Victoria Amelina, and Andrei Kurkov. The dissertation seeks to answer fundamental questions about human-animal relationships, perceptions of animality, growing ecological consciousness, and the nature of reality itself. While it contributes to the growing field of scholarship interested in animals and environment Russian literary studies, though its specific interventions to marry the concerns of animal studies with narrative theory and cognitive literary studies. Ultimately, I hope to show that animals are not a niche concern, but a central one, and the project of imagining and narrating animal consciousness is fundamental to the study of narrative, theories of consciousness, and understandings of what it means to be human, to be alive, and to exist in the world. 

Luke Jeske
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

“Faith, Nation, and Empire: Nineteenth-Century Russian Pilgrimage to the Holy Land” 

Throughout the nineteenth century, Russian Orthodox Christians made pilgrimage to Ottoman Palestine, or the Holy Land, a vital and dynamic part of religious and national life. Tens of thousands made the journey, relying on patchwork support systems to realize their dreams of walking in Jesus’ footsteps. Many considered the journey itself a manifestation of personal and collective piety, an act rewarded by God and capable of knitting together thousands of compatriots shuffling toward Jerusalem. Sharing a common destination, Russians diverged on how to practice and interpret pilgrimage. Whereas champions of imperialism stressed the projection of geopolitical power, others emphasized neutral piety. Some, mostly peasants, struck out on their own, embracing apocrypha and heterodox rituals while avoiding Russian officials. I argue that examining these developments in pilgrimage enables us to better understand the broader modernization of Russian Orthodox Christian religiosity, by which I mean the adaptation of religion to accommodate the myriad technological, social, cultural, and legal changes unfolding over the century. While scholars have produced insightful scholarship on various aspects of this religious revitalization, I am one of the first to examine it in the trans-imperial context of pilgrimage and thereby expose Orthodoxy’s tremendous capacity to mobilize the Tsar’s subjects. Drawing on travel memoirs, periodicals, and published archival materials generated around pilgrimage, I shed new light on the religious groundings of Russian ethno-nationalism and imperialism. 

Weronika Malek-Lubawski 
Art History
University of Southern California 

“Between Moscow and Paris: Łódź and the Transnational Avant-garde Network”  

My dissertation reconstructs the artistic network between Russia and Western urban centers through the activities of artists connected to Łódź, Poland. I study Russian-German sculptor Katarzyna Kobro (1898-1951), Polish painter and art theoretician Władysław Strzemiński (1893-1952), and Polish-Jewish painter and designer Henryk Berlewi (1894-1967), who were all crucial in facilitating international contacts and institutional collaborations between the avant-garde movements. Kobro and Strzemiński moved to Poland from Russia in 1921 and were the first artists to share and implement the ideas of revolutionary avant-garde there. Berlewi radically changed his art upon his encounter with Suprematism and carried this influence West after moving from Poland to Berlin and Paris. Strzemiński, Kobro, and Berlewi maintained a lifelong commitment to abstraction, that was reflected not only in their artworks, but also through self-publishing, teaching, and involvement in organizing collections and archives of contemporary art. I will highlight how these artists drew on the artistic discourse and institutional models that emerged during the Russian Revolution to re-imagine and implement avant-garde ideas in their new locations and contexts. In my argument, studying this artistic mobility allows us to broaden and de-center the histories of artists who were directly or indirectly influenced by the revolutionary avant-garde and departed from it to develop their individual art theories like Unism or Mechano-Faktura. My research draws on museum collections, primary sources, memoirs, and institutional histories. I also consider the impact of archival gaps and the Cold War on the existing historiography. The temporal scope of my dissertation will focus on 1921-1939, but in my last chapter, I will analyze Kobro’s, Strzemiński’s, and Berlewi’s legacy in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Alexandra Noi
University of California, Santa Barbara

“From Ape to New Socialist Man: Soviet and Chinese Forced Labor Camps as Laboratories of Carceral Eugenics” 

My dissertation is a comparative intellectual and social history of forced labor and reeducation in the Soviet Union and China. I study the ideas of human nature and practices of its transformation through the lens of incarceration. I conceptualize Soviet Gulag and Chinese Laogai forced labor camps as socialist scientific projects of molding humans and nature rooted in ideas of plasticity in the natural and social sciences of the early and mid–twentieth century. In the Soviet Union, those were Marxist ideas of the value of labor in the evolutionary transition “from ape to man,” as Friedrich Engels wrote, the theory of behavioral conditioning of the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov, and the pedagogical methods of the Soviet Ukrainian educator Anton Makarenko. In China, social engineering was an intellectual fusion of indigenous theories of moral rehabilitation, Marxist and Leninist thought, Mao Zedong’s original contributions, and Soviet penal and educational experiments. I explore how in both countries the institutions and practices of forced labor were devised as a means to achieve revolutionary ends—the concurrent goals of modernizing the old “backward” society and economy, remaking people into new socialist citizens, and transforming the natural environment. 

Nicholas Seay 
The Ohio State University 

“Cotton Modernity: Agricultural Labor, Environment, and Materialism in Soviet Tajikistan, 1945-1991″ 

My dissertation explores the technocratic intensification of cotton monoculture in post-WWII Soviet-Tajikistan, which in turn was used to increase the USSR’s industrial-use cotton supply and as exports on the global market. I argue that this intensification produced a series of crises in environmental protection and allocation of labor resources, prompting reform-minded scientists and state agency employees to respond with several technocratic responses that addressed isolated problems, but fell short of directly attacking the monoculture itself, a non-negotiable feature of relations between Moscow and Central Asian Republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. To increase the yearly harvests of raw cotton, planners and collective farms made production more efficient through rational use of water resources, irrigating previously uncultivated lands, new seed selection strategies, and the production and application of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. By utilizing an environmental and materialist approach and analyzing how state officials responded to these crises, my research shows how the case of Tajikistan’s cotton production speaks to important north-south dynamics within the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Soviet “empire” and how the case of Soviet cotton fits within global economic and environmental trends of the late-20th century. 

John Webley
Slavic Languages and Literature
Yale University

“Ink, Paint, and Blood: India and the Great Game in Russian Culture” 

Ink, Paint, and Blood examines Russian depictions of India created during the so-called Great Game, the rivalry between Britain and Russia for dominance in Asia. As a framework for understanding history, the Great Game (or Tournament of Shadows in Russian) reduces the complex, multipolar politicking between Europe and Asia down to a sensational story of spies and soldiers clashing on the Roof of the World. Nonetheless, scholars have demonstrated how this rivalry emerged as a dominant theme in Victorian media—even before the term ‘Great Game’ entered popular usage. Far less attention has been paid to how Russia created, imagined, and responded to this rivalry. My work elucidates the dominant concerns that emerged in Russia’s “Great Game” media—mapping, border disputes, espionage, surveillance, political upheaval, and trade—and shows how these themes adhered repetitive aesthetic dimensions. I achieve this through a trans-medial approach, which brings together travelogues, architecture, painting, poetry, material culture, and ballet from Russia, Britain, and India. By focusing on Russian depictions of India, my work shows how the discourse of the Great Game enabled Russians to articulate their own imperial aesthetic through comparison, mimicry, and differentiation from the British. As Russians retraced the journeys made by British explorers, spies, conquerors, and artists, they used their own creative practices to inspect British imperial culture and its forms. In drawing attention to both the narrative and formal aspects of the Great Game, my project reveals the broader impact that this rivalry had on shaping Russian imperial ideology and aesthetics. 


Yacov Zohn
University of Wisconsin-Madison  

“Tactical Representation: Political Goals in the Soviet National Soccer Team (1952-1972)” 

My dissertation probes the fractured political nature of soccer in the Soviet Union through the lens of the Soviet national soccer team from the team’s official genesis in 1952 to the end of its “golden era” in 1972. The sport featured a complex representation of governmental organizations, industries, politicians, and sports administrators who actively intervened in sporting affairs, vying for power and influence. My research explores institutions, individuals, and empire to investigate the political complexities and divides that festered in and around the Soviet soccer team in the struggle to shape its image as an icon of “Soviet” identity. I am particularly interested in examining the reasons behind the shifting locus of representation embodied by the national team: why and how Moscow, endowed with all of the USSR’s most important political institutions, dominant sport institutions, and the best clubs in the country, lost its monopoly on the national team, with Tbilisi and especially Kyiv growing in importance. My dissertation explains how a mix of key individuals, political changes, shifting societal norms, strengthening nationalism, fragmentation of power in Moscow, evolving regional sport/governmental institutions, and hockey (of all things) played a role in significantly impacting the national team’s meaning, composition, and results. The scope of my project incorporates little known regional sport publications, newspapers, interviews, and memoirs of key participants, as well as research in archives, libraries, and online sources across the USA, Switzerland, Germany, France, England, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia. 

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