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Plotting Publics: Science, Society, and Literature in Russia and Eastern Europe

General Programming

  • Department of Slavic Languages
  • The Harriman Institute
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
man reading to children

This conference explores the intersections of literary culture and the scientific study of society in Russia and Eastern Europe. The literary culture of the region was fixated on studying its publics long before the science of society became a distinct form of knowledge production. Literature was also among the first to put to the test ideas of social engineering, developing social imaginaries for the future, as the sciences sought to transform the present. Given the richness of the dialogue between literary culture and the study of society, this conference asks: what epistemic frameworks did literature offer to the emergent science of society–understood broadly as studies of society, its economy, and governance–and what did it borrow? What methodological, theoretical, and political approaches did both domains of knowledge share, and how did they diverge? What can we learn by examining the two in tandem, as building upon or contesting one another?

The conference will hone in on the political implications of literature’s entanglement with the social science project. It will ask how literature aided emergent and established studies of society, such as sociology, political science, economics, and law, in making sense of its publics and polity. Conversely, to what ends did such literature employ scientific methods, and what kinds of ideas about the people and the state did it popularize? What were the effects of literary intervention in the domain of science, especially of its ventures into the studies of ethnic and racial diversity, national identity, systems of governance, and economic hierarchies? In probing these questions, the conference will aim to uncover a shared methodology of society and will identify the dynamic vision of how social, ethnic, racial, and national identities are plotted and maintained throughout history.

Full schedule to come.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.