Airport Culture(s): Interdisciplinary Conference, London, April 28-29, 2016

See the program for this upcoming conference to be held at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London, here and follow the twitter feeds @airportculture and @citiesatSAS. See also the Cities project at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

In the spirit of this conference, here is a scene from an airport of the Second World:


Tolmachevo airport in Novosibirsk. Source: Institute of Modernism, Moscow.

Eastern Europe without Borders–November 10, 2015

School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, University College London

10 November 2015

9.15am-6pm. Followed by prosecco and canapés.

How can scholars working in the framework of East European studies engage with a world of people, objects, ideas and practices in motion?  How does looking beyond geographically bounded nation-states and regions enrich the possibilities of East European area studies? What are the practical implications for research, teaching and training? And how does such work in East European studies speak to scholars in other fields?  A workshop will be held in London on 10 November 2015 to consider these issues through the lens of recent research on three topics: cities, travellers, and networks/linkages.

This workshop will be preceded on 9th November by the linked conference “Area Studies in the 21st century”.

Speakers at “Eastern Europe without Borders” include:

  • Dr Michał Murawski  (SSEES, UCL)
  • Dr Carmen Popescu (Sorbonne)
  • Dr Vladimir Kulić (FAU Miami)
  • Dr Bernard Struck (St Andrews)
  • Dr Jan Grill (Manchester)
  • Dr Anca Parvulescu (Washington University St Louis)
  • Prof  Martin Schulze Wessel (Munich)
  • Dr Łukasz Stanek (Manchester)
  • Prof James Mark (Exeter)
  • Prof David Crowley (RCA London)
  • Prof Diana Mishkova (Sofia)
  • Dr Maciej Maryl (Warsaw)
  • Dr Klara Kemp-Welch (Courtauld London)

The full programme is available for download:

Further information and registration is available below:

Workshop organizers:

Centre for East European Language Based Area Studies (CEELBAS): UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES):

Academic contacts: 

Wendy Bracewell, Michał Murawski

Administrative contact: 

Anna Tremain

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Garage–4th International Conference, October 30-31, 2015


October 30–31, 2015

West Gallery
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
Admission free
Prior registration required

Сonference is focusing on Soviet Modernist architecture and urban planning. Participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will attempt to overcome the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture.  Continue reading

(POST) SOCIALIST SPACES: An international and interdisciplinary workshop




September 3 – 5, 2015

University of Toronto


Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies

Munk School of Global Affairs

1 Devonshire Place | Room 108N

Toronto, ON   M5S 3K7

Sponsored by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Toronto. Continue reading

Gulag Town, Company Town–Barenberg responds

First of all, I want to thank: Steve Harris and Steve Barnes for taking the time to organize these blog conversations; Ana, Ekaterina, Asif, Wilson, and Jeff for taking the time to read my book with such care and offer their comments; and Yale University Press for facilitating the discussion. Second, I want to apologize for how long it’s taken me to formulate my first response. I’ve been traveling, and this has prevented me from sitting down to write something that is equal to the very high standards set by my fellow participants!

I’ll now take some time to respond to some of the questions and comments that the panelists have offered, in the hopes that this will then spark more questions and conversation about my book. I’ll start with what seem to be some common themes in the responses.

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Enchanting Views: Romanian Black Sea Tourism Planning and Architecture of the 1960s and 70s

Congratulations to our colleagues on launching this new book!
Vederi_F2_rgb-0The volume is an extension of the main research themes explored by the exhibition Enchanting Views. Romanian Black Sea Tourism Planning and Architecture of the 1960s and 70s, held in the Sala Dalles of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest between 10 October and 23 November 2014.
Inviting recognized authors from the fields of history and theory of architecture, art history, film and anthropology, the volume re-examines the experience of post-war modernity on the Romanian coast in a more nuanced way pointing: the sensitive conjunctions between the “social engagement” of the extensive development project on the Romanian seaside and the policies of (re)presenting local tourism; between the exceptional status this architectural laboratory acquired at the time and the architect’s complex motivations for taking part in the debates of post-war architectural culture.
The authors’ interventions argue for a rewriting of the meanings contained by the complex terrain of the seaside project during socialism and for mobilizing new theoretical and cultural references, renegotiating the multiple dimensions of leisure architecture. The publication provides a comparative reading of the Romanian seaside, including a series of three texts dedicated the Bulgarian, Turkish and Russian Black Sea Coast. Authors: T. Elvan Altan, Irina Băncescu, Elke Beyer, Adina Brădeanu, Anke Hagemann, Claude Karnoouh, Olga Kazakova, Juliana Maxim, Carmen Popescu, Magda Predescu, Adelina Ștefan, Irina Tulbure, Ana Maria Zahariade.

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Vorkuta’s Many Histories

There is a lot to say about Alan Barenberg’s deeply researched book Gulag Town, Company Town: Forced Labor and Its Legacy in Vorkuta, partly because there are so many ways to approach it critically as a work of scholarship. The history of the Gulag and the history of urbanization in the Soviet era are two obvious points of reference, but the book could also be offered as a meta-narrative on the transition from Stalinism to post-Stalinism and how that passage was contingent, complicated, and colored by historical memory: the late Soviet period had elements of the Stalinist past, and Stalinist past had embedded in it the roots of the post-1953 Soviet Union. This kind of articulation, of effacing the firm boundaries that one might seemingly expect in Soviet history, across time (think 1917, 1953, etc.), across space (the “Gulag/Ne Gulag” problem, in Oleg Khlevniuk’s formulation, for example), and across populations (“free” workers and prisoners) are at the heart of the Alan’s fascinating book. Continue reading

Work in the Soviet Arctic

Alan Barenberg’s fascinating book Gulag Town, Company Town presents different stages in the life of the town of Vorkuta. The story is based on rich archival material and numerous interviews, mostly with former Gulag prisoners or their relatives. In the beginning of the 1930s, high-quality coal was discovered above the Arctic Circle of European Russia. Shortly afterwards, a decision was made to begin building a rapidly growing Soviet forced-labor camp. During the Second World War, the construction began of a town, separate from the camp complex. Continue reading

Vague Borders: Blurred But Still There

The study of one city as a litmus test for broader issues is becoming very widespread because a particular urban case gives an excellent opportunity to trace the formation and unexpected intersections of different processes on the ground level over the long term. However, the main (and rather obvious) challenge of a deep analysis of one case is the question of scale – how to estimate what is typical and what is original in that particular story, how to combine internal and external factors, and many other issues related to the levels of analysis. Alan Barenberg’s Gulag Town, Company Town: Forced Labor and Its Legacy in Vorkuta gives a good example of how to put the story of a particular settlement into a broader and more complicated context. Continue reading

The Remaking of a Gulag Town and the Fate of Socialist Urbanity after Stalin

In recent years, scholars have demonstrated the critical role that the Gulag played in building socialism under Stalin, the exercise of power and ideology in this totalitarian regime, and ordinary people’s interactions with the Stalinist state. While much of the Gulag’s history in the Stalin era remains to be examined, a few scholars have begun to explore how its post-Stalinist dismantling and transformation shaped Soviet state and society in subsequent decades. 9780300179446A chief example of this recent scholarship is Alan Barenberg’s Gulag Town, Company Town: Forced Labor and Its Legacy in Vorkuta (Yale University Press, 2014). In this richly researched study of Vorkuta, Barenberg (Texas Tech University), chronicles how a town and its residents participated in the larger transformation of the Gulag during and after Stalin’s rule. For students of socialist cities, this book is of critical importance for several reasons.

First, Barenberg’s study is one of the few we have on a particular category of socialist cities: the Gulag town. Alongside other categories–such as atom cities and closed cities–the Gulag town was a peculiar type of Soviet city that scholars have only begun to examine in studies of socialist urbanity. His book, therefore, contributes to our understanding of the different types of cities (and their respective planning, economy, political functions, and social composition) that socialist regimes developed over the course of the 20th century. Continue reading