KU highlights racial issues in Russia in new lecture series

Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 4:13 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - The University of Kansas is delving into racial issues in Russia with a new lecture series.

The University of Kansas says a new lecture series is looking at te historical and contemporary meaning of race in Russia.

“Race has been a complicated category in scholarly investigations of Russia due to its historical absence both during tsarist times and the Soviet period during which the significance of race was diminished in efforts to promote an anti-racist and color-blind global image of the USSR as superior to the United States,” said Ani Kokobobo, associate professor of Russian and lecture series organizer.

According to KU, the “Russia and Race” series began with a key address by Johanthan Flatley of Wayne State University, titled “'Our Friend Angela': The Black Communist Star,” which was held on Sept. 9. It said the lecture stands at the nexus of African-American and Russian studies, uses “race” as a lens of inquiry by focusing on Davis’s status as a Black communist celebrity and subject of massive solidarity campaigns in the Soviet Union, East Germany, Cuba and around the world. It said Flately questioned how Davis presented a compelling figure for the Soviet Union to anchor an anti-American, anti-racist propaganda campaigns, while her stardome was in tension with the communist emphasis on solidarity and collectivity, and Davis herself resisted the focus on herself as an icon.

The rest of the series is as follows:

  • Oct. 1: “On Teaching American Students how ‘Race’ Works in Russia,” Anne Lounsbery, New York University
  • Oct. 8: “Was Soviet Internationalism Anti-Racist? Toward a History of Foreign Others in the USSR,” Anika Walke, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Oct. 16: “Understanding Race in Imperial Russia: Categories of Difference Across Cultures,” Nathaniel Knight, Seton Hall University.)

KU said all webinars begin at 4 p.m. Registration can be done here.

The series “seeks to reevaluate understandings of race in Russia, excavating its history, evolution and contemporary meanings, even if the term is largely avoided in the Russian public discourse,” said Kokobobo, who is also chair of the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Languages & Literatures and interim director of the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies, both event sponsors.

According to KU, additional sponsors for the series include the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Department of African-American Studies.

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