Suchland Photo

Jennifer Suchland

Associate Professor, Slavic and E. European Languages & Cultures, Ohio State U

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

I was an undergraduate student interested in the Soviet Union, especially questions of nationalism and citizenship.  I was fascinated with Soviet concept of the “Friendship of Peoples” and ended up writing a senior honors thesis on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  Although my graduate research veered from that topic, I will always find nationalism and citizenship issues interesting.  Somehow these issues always return.  In graduate school I focused on post-Soviet Russian political and social change.   I was interested in the expansive and diverse space of Eastern and Central Europe and the USSR, but I had to focus on a language — and I chose Russian.  

How have your interests changed since then?

My interests are more interdisciplinary and my research is informed by questions circulating in a variety of fields.  In graduate school I was much more concerned with the debates within Political Science — of course this made sense given I was earning my PhD in that discipline.  I am invigorated by working across fields, such as cultural studies, anthropology, geography, law and transnational feminist studies.  This cross/interdisciplinarity has altered my approach to area studies. I now feel more grounded in area studies than before.  I also see area studies through a more transnational lens, which I think is important to the future of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies. 

What is your current research project? 

I just completed my first book, Economies of Violence: postsocialism, transnational feminism and the politics of sex trafficking, which will be available Spring 2015.  The book is about human trafficking and the policies that are used to combat it.  I examine the evolution of how women’s rights advocates, governments and intergovernmental organizations approached the problem of human trafficking during the Cold War and in its immediate aftermath.  Special attention is given to the entrance of trafficking victims from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc.  There is also an analysis of current anti-trafficking policy, research and government programs.  After the Cold War, the dominant way trafficking is understood is as a problem of violence against women and criminal behaviour – both of which support a carceral anti-trafficking agenda.  I argue that current approaches to anti-trafficking lack serious attention to the economic dimensions of the problem. Human trafficking is not viewed as part of the wider global phenomenon of precarious labor — and this, in part, is due to the role postsocialism played in the re-framing of human trafficking after the Cold War.  The book is a what I call a critical genealogy and situates Russia and postsocialism within transnational shifts and questions of power and precarity.    

What do you value about your ASEEES membership?

I value being a part of a diverse scholarly community.  I have always appreciated the space provided by ASEEES, especially with the annual conference, to learn from and be in conversation with a variety of fields/scholars. In addition to feeling like I am part of a dynamic intellectual community, membership to ASEEES brings many resources that I value — such as the newsletter, information on international conferences or its catalogue of funding sources.