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CFP: The New Wave of Russian-Jewish (Transnational and Trans-generic) Cultural Production

CFP: The New Wave of Russian-Jewish (Transnational and Trans-generic) Cultural Production
December 4-5, 2014

Harriman Institute at Columbia University

The most recent wave of Russian-speaking Jewish immigration to North America (1970s-1990s) incubated a rich panoply of talented artists, filmmakers, musicians, and writers; all of whom conveyed cultural capital from the Soviet Union to the West. Contemporary Jewish, immigrant writers from the former Soviet Republics, including David Bezmozgis, Boris Fishman, Keith and Masha Gessen, Michael Idov, Sana Krasikov, Gary Shteyngart, Anya Ulinich, Lara Vapnyar, and Anya von Bremzen, are upending the definition of Jewish immigrant literature. The writers in this community have produced collectively a wide-range of textual creative endeavors: memoirs, short story collections, novels, non-fiction, cookbooks, and finally a graphic novel.

These works are innovative in that they are boundary crossing productions: they display the writers’ transnationalism and multiculturalism in that they take place in Russia, Canada, the U.S., Italy, etc. While crossing geographical frontiers these authors also traverse multiple textual and visual genres. Lara Vapnyar’s Broccoli and Other Tales of Love and Food (2008), is both a short story-collection and a cookbook as it includes recipes. Anya von Bremzen’s memoir Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking (2013) also fuses recipes with the more traditional autobiographical genre. Anya Ulinich’s Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel (2014) is a graphic novel where the author displays her artistic background and her mastery of the writer’s craft. David Bezmozgis is both a writer and a filmmaker; he is currently turning his short story collection Natasha (2004) into a movie.

In addition to these writers, there are representatives of this community generating cultural capital, and navigating both territorial borders and borders of genre in other artistic realms. Regina Spektor has released numerous albums including Soviet Kitsch (2004), and won a Grammy Award in 2014. In her work she distills her classical musical background with influences from Soviet poetry (e.g. Boris Pasternak) and Soviet bard music (e.g. Bulat Okudzhava.) Lera Auerbach, an award winning, classically trained pianist and composer, has been commissioned to write classical music for Gidon Kramer and the Royal Danish Ballet; her music for the new ballet The Little Mermaid premiered at the Copenhagen Opera House in 2005. Many of Auerbach’s compositions are inspired by Russian literature—e.g. Speak, Memory (2010) and Gogol (2010). Julia Loktev is an acclaimed filmmaker, known for Day Night Day Night (2006) and the Loneliest Planet (2011). Slava Tsukerman’s documentaries include Stalin’s Wife (2004) and Perestroika (2008).

This conference focuses on the various modes of artistic composition that Russian-speaking Jewish Americans have excelled at in the last decade and a half including art, film, literature, and music. Particular emphasis will be given to the negotiation of genre and geography in this cultural production.

Please send paper title, abstract (300-500 words), and short bio to by 5 September 2014.


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