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Michael Bobick

Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh

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

My interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies dates to fifth grade, when I watched the Soviet Union dissolve on television. As an undergraduate, I ended up studying German and spent my junior year in Munich, which afforded me the opportunity to travel through Central and Eastern Europe. I never made it to the former USSR, but I found the experience eye-opening in terms of the ability to witness firsthand the economic, social, and political changes associated with the demise of state socialism.

How have your interests changed since then?

My interests were initially in Central Europe and the Balkans, but in graduate school I shifted my interests to Eurasia, in particular, to the periphery. While doing a MA I wrote a thesis on the effects of EU expansion on Kaliningrad, a fascinating region in which Kant lived and died. At the time (2004), I found it odd that EU officials were speaking of this now Russian region as a “black hole” and potential security risk. When thinking about a dissertation topic, I found similar processes occurring in Moldova and its separatist region, Transnistria. At the time there was very little sustained, ethnographic research on Transnistria, so I decided to change that and decided to write a dissertation on a place I’d never been before.

What is your current research project? 

Currently, I am turning my dissertation into a book. My dissertation was oriented around questions of sovereignty and statehood in Transnistria, but my manuscript will illustrate what Transnistria’s political and economic processes reveal about power and authority in the 21st century. In my book, I make the argument that Transnistria, far from being a peripheral outlier, actually elucidates the increasingly contingent and desperate nature of our liberal-democratic sovereignty. I think Transnistria is a great place to think through these issues.

What do you value about your ASEEES membership?

I value ASEEES because it offers access to a large, interdisciplinary community of scholars. Unlike disciplinary associations, ASEEES conferences are less theoretical, which I value as an anthropologist. I also appreciate the diverse audience of ASEEES — I remember giving a talk at a conference in Washington, DC and fielding questions from historians, anthropologists, and intelligence officials.

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

Having dragged my wife Tanya and our daughter Dasha around the globe — we recently moved back to Pittsburgh from Bishkek — I enjoy introducing them to all of the wonders that my native Pittsburgh has to offer.