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Alexei Yurchak

Associate Professor
University of California, Berkeley
Bodies of Lenin. Biochemistry of Communist Futures
01 September 2017 -
30 June 2018
Social anthropology and ethnology
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Alexei Yurchak is both an Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology as well as a Core Faculty member in the graduate program at the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in cultural and linguistic anthropology from Duke University in 1997 (after having received a graduate degree in physics from Russia. Alexei Yurchak's theoretical interests include the analysis of human agency and its interplay with language and discourses of power especially in post-Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. His book Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More has won the Wayne Vucinic Book Award for best book of the year from American Society for Eastern European, Eurasian and Slavic Studies.

Research interests:

Soviet history and the processes of post-socialist transformation in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; political institutions and ideologies in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia; political philosophy and language philosophy; the interface between language/discourse and power; comparative studies of communism and capitalism anthropology of media; visual anthropology; experimental artistic scenes (especially, Russia and US); urban geography and anthropology of space.

Bodies of Lenin. Biochemistry of Communist Futures

During the Soviet period, Lenin’s body played the role of a central ideological symbol and its public display served important propaganda purposes. However, if we study closely the scientific practices that are conducted in the Mausoleum Lab, Lenin’s body would appear to be something quite different than a simple ideological symbol. For example, generations of the Lab scientists have paid particular attention to those parts of the body that remain invisible to the public and have never been intended for display.

The fruits of this unique scientific labor, and even the fact that it is conducted at all, have always been hidden from everyone except for a tiny group of scientists and political leaders. Why has this work been conducted? What science has developed around it? What political, philosophical and scientific criteria have shaped it? Answering these questions will add a unique new perspective on the symbolic foundations of “Leninist” political regimes, the nature of power, legitimacy and sovereignty in that political system, its links with other communist projects around the world and with the political regime in Russia today.

HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
10917
2017-2018
Contemporary period (1789-…)
Eastern Europe
yurchak@berkeley.edu