Which desires do people satisfy by embracing imperfections — and how can we use the present-day desire for the imperfect and the non-polished to address pressing social concerns?
Ours is an age of spellcheckers, photo filters, and other technologies that aim at lightening everyday lives. Against this growing technological perfection, we see a growing interest in imperfection – among marketeers, who successfully promote ‘imperfectly perfect’ supermarket vegetables; among designers, who deliberately craft wonky chairs or torn jeans; among psychologists, who see perfectionism as a cause for depression or burnout; and among philosophers, who criticize genetic experiments meant to perfect humans. I compare these and other ‘cults of imperfection’ across different disciplines and world regions. I study their pitfalls (fans of imperfection sometimes unduly romanticize poverty and hardship) – but, together with designers and curators, I also examine how we can use the present-day interest in the imperfect and non-polished to address pressing social problems.
1) ‘“Russian” Imperfections? A Plea for Transcultural Readings of Aesthetic Trends.’ In Transnational Russian Studies (Andy Byford et al., eds.). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press 2019 (in print).
2) Sincerity after Communism: A Cultural History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.
3) ‘Reaktsionnaia iskrennost’ [Reactionary Sincerity].’ Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie [New Literary Observer], 3 (2018), open access via http://magazines.russ.ru/nlo/2018/3/reakcionnaya-iskrennost.html.