The End of the Affair: Reflections on the Ruins of Soviet-Third-World Engagements

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program (REEES) and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures host Rossen Djagalov, Assistant Professor of Russian, New York University, present “The End of the Affair: Reflections on the Ruins of Soviet-Third-World Engagements.” In the late Soviet Union, translations of African and Asian literature could be seen in many bookstores, Indian films were among the most popular, and the USSR underwrote (and participated in, through its Central Asian and Caucasian republics) a whole Afro-Asian Writers Association (1958-1990) and a bienniall Tashkent Festival for African, Asian, and Latin American Film (1968-1988). Little is left today of these once-vibrant cultural engagements, except for library books that few now read, area studies academic institutes that are a pale shadow of their Soviet-era selves, fading memories of a world much wider before its post-1990 Westernization/ provincialization. Beyond ruins, however, we have to think of the intellectual legacies of these engagements: from contemporary liberal intelligentsia racism in Russia to postcolonial studies in the Anglo-American academy, which took off precisely at the moment when Third-Worldist and Soviet-aligned anti-colonial initiatives were fading away. As a whole, my book, From Internationalism to Postcolonialism: Literature and History between the Second and the Third World (2020) is an attempt to explore the legacies the Soviet project left for contemporary postcolonial thought and practice. But it constitutes only one possible story told from the vantage point of Soviet-Third-World nexus, which can help revise many of the standard narratives not only of Soviet and post-Soviet history but also of those of the Global South.