“Fragile Things: Material Culture and the Russian Empire” (Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies Program)

Event time: 
Friday, April 12, 2024 - 2:00pm to Saturday, April 13, 2024 - 6:00pm
See schedule for locations See map
Event description: 

In the past two decades the humanities has experienced a marked “material turn,” a new materialism that has brought fresh methods and theories to the study of objects. With amplified attention not only to matter itself, but to the ideological, social, economic, political, and ecological dimensions of material objects, historians and theorists of culture have imagined the deep human and environmental networks that make, shape, and mediate things. This conference will explore these materialities as defining of the Russian empire, comprised as it was not only of matryoshka nesting dolls and Faberge eggs, but of the artistic, industrial, and religious objects of the imperial peripheries, Central Asia, the Baltic region, the Caucasus, and Ukraine. How, for example, are stories of colonial expansion or class violence retained in the crumbling relics of imperial everyday life? Can we discern shifting social and political ideologies in the migration of ornamental forms across the decorative arts? In which materials might we seek inscriptions of ecological transformation and vulnerability? And how does the researcher engage materiality when objects are lost or made inaccessible by geopolitical upheaval? In asking these and other questions, Fragile Things will attend to three main goals: to propose the concept of “fragility” as generative for material cultural scholars across a range of disciplines and methodologies; to explore the potential of new materialism to excavate previously overlooked objects, experiences, and frameworks of the Russian empire; and to leverage the framework of materiality in the project of decolonizing the study of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia.

For the most up to date information please visit the conference website: https://reees.macmillan.yale.edu/fragile-things-conference