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Ksenia Robbe

Ksenia Robbe

NIAS Individual Fellow

Project title

Other Transitions: Remembering the 1980-90s Crises and Reimagining Sociality in Russia and South Africa

Research question

What modes of remembering characterise contemporary narratives of living through the 1980-90s crises of (post-)socialism and (post-)colonialism? How do these memories re-imagine subjectivity and sociality? What are the similarities and differences between the emerging memories of post-Soviet and post-apartheid ‘transitions’?

Project description

For postsocialist and postcolonial societies that emerged at the end of the Cold War, through a series of economic and political crises, ‘transition’ means more than a straightforward movement with a predetermined goal. Yet the political and cultural discourses about these societies have typically framed these periods via progressivist or dystopian visions. This project examines how the media of literature, film and visual art in Russia and South Africa re-engage with the 1980s and 90s as objects of remembering and exploring what was lost and gained in the course of neoliberal transformations. It approaches these representations as the sites of imagining what transitions could be otherwise, in particular what work memory can do to repair and re-conceive socialities that have deteriorated over decades. The project advances research in memory studies by focusing on ‘the everyday’ as a site of re-engaging questions of justice and hope. By comparing cultural processes in South Africa and Russia during the 2010s, it conceptualises memory of transitions as a space for critical dialogues between Eastern Europe and the Global South.


Selected publications

“Remembering the Violence of (De)colonization in Southern Africa: From Witnessing to Activist Genealogies in Literature and Film.” Regions of Memory: Transnational Formations, edited by Simon Lewis, Jeffrey Olick, Joanna Wawrzyniak, and Malgorzata Pakier. Palgrave Macmillan, 2022.

“‘C’mon, Turn Swan Lake on: Memories of the 1990s at the Belarusian Protests of 2020″ (with Andrei Zavadski). Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European New Media. Forthcoming 2022.

(Un)timely Crises: Chronotopes and Critique, co-edited with Maria Boletsi, Kasia Mika and Natashe Lemos Dekker. Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

“Confronting Disillusionment: On the Rediscovery of Socialist Archives in Recent South African Cultural Production.” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 19.4 (2018): 398-415.