The Human Reimagined: Posthumanism in Russia

The Human Reimagined: Posthumanism in Russia

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Edited and introduced by Colleen McQuillen and Julia Vaingurt

Series: Cultural Revolutions: Russia in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
ISBN: 9781618117328 (hardcover) / 9781618117793 (paperback)
Pages: 278 pp.; 8 illus. 
Publication Date: September 2018

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The enmeshment of the human body with various forms of technology is a phenomenon that characterizes lived and imagined experiences in Russian arts of the modernist and postmodernist eras. In contrast to the postrevolutionary fixation on mechanical engineering, industrial progress, and the body as a machine, the postmodern, postindustrial period probes the meaning of being human not only from a physical, bodily perspective, but also from the philosophical perspectives of subjectivity and consciousness. The Human Reimagined examines the ways in which literary and artistic representations of the body, selfhood, subjectivity, and consciousness illuminate late- and post-Soviet ideas about the changing relationships among the individual, the environment, technology, and society.

Contributors include: Alex Anikina, Keti Chukhrov, Jacob Emery, Elana Gomel, Sofya Khagi, Katerina Lakhmitko, Colleen McQuillen, Jonathan Brooks Platt, Kristina Toland, Julia Vaingurt, Diana Kurkovsky West, Trevor Wilson

Colleen McQuillen is associate professor in the Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has authored numerous publications on Russian literature and culture, including The Modernist Masquerade: Stylizing Life, Literature and Costumes in Russia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013).

Julia Vaingurt is associate professor in the Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has published widely on Russian modernism and avant-garde, including Wonderlands of the Avant-Garde: Technology and Arts in Russia of the 1920s (Northwestern University Press, 2013).  


‘Humanism in the European sense of the word,’ Nikolai Berdyaev wrote in his Russian Idea (1946), ‘formed no part of the experience of Russia.’ What Russia did experience, and ‘with some particular sharpness,’ he continues, was ‘the crisis of humanism.’ This crisis lies at the heart of Colleen McQuillen and Julia Vaingurt’s excellent and timely collection The Human Reimagined: Posthumanism in Russia. … The Human Reimagined is a valuable contribution that opens up vital new methodologies and relevant paths of inquiry for the Slavic field. It will be useful for both newcomers and specialists in these subfields, and its crossdisciplinary engagement will enrich both Slavic Studies and posthumanist discussions throughout the humanities.
— Bradley A. Gorski, Vanderbilt University, the Russian Review Vol. 78, No. 3
The Human Reimagined is an unassuming but essential volume. It’s a minor form — the edited collection of academic essays — that undertakes the major work of rearticulating a field of philosophical and political inquiry. The editors and contributors present a vision of a powerful theoretical and philosophical concept of the human based in the material reality of history. It’s that materialist grounding and that range that give posthumanism — and The Human Reimagined — its radical potential.
— Aaron Winslow, Los Angeles Review of Books
From the work of Dostoevsky and Fedorov to Malevich and Kharms, Russian culture has sought to explore post-human conditions, treating so-called human nature and human reason as annoying fetters. For the first time, this volume connects these artistic intuitions with the scholarly explorations of post-humanism that have occurred in the humanities for more than a decade. The Human Reimagined places Russian posthumanism in a broad theoretical context and reflects upon the specific character of these Russian cultural phenomena, which can be retroactively defined as posthumanist. Contributors to this volume outline a number of very promising directions for this quest (Platonov, science fiction, computer gaming, etc.), and their articles are like scout parties entering vast and exciting territories, still awaiting exploration. This is a pioneering volume, and its significance will only grow with time.
— Mark Lipovetsky, University of Colorado—Boulder

Table of Contents

I.    Introduction
a. Critical Posthumanism
b. Posthumanism in Russia
c. Overview of the Articles

II.    Questions of Ethics and Alterity
1. Our Posthuman Past: Subjectivity, History and Utopia in Late-Soviet Science Fiction
Elana Gomel, Tel Aviv University
2. Digressions in Progress: Posthuman Loneliness and the Will to Play in the Work of the Strugatsky Brothers
Julia Vaingurt, University of Illinois at Chicago
3. Humans, Animals, Machines: Scenarios of Raschelovechivanie in Gray Goo and Matisse
Sofya Khagi, University of Michigan

III.    Natural, Built, and Imagined Environments
4. Environmentalism and the Man of the Future: Discursive Practices in the 1970s
Colleen McQuillen, University of Illinois at Chicago            
5. Daedalus and the Cyborg: Human-Machine Hybridity in Late-Soviet Design
Diana Kurkovsky West, European University at St. Petersburg
6. Some Entropy in Your Tea: Notes on the Ontopoetics of Artificial Intelligence
Alex Anikina, Goldsmiths, University of London

IV.    Technologies of the Self
7. Romantic Aesthetics and Cybernetic Fiction
Jacob Emery, Indiana University
8. Writing and Technology: Writing the Self in ‘Real Time’
Kristina Toland, Bowdoin College
9. Modes of Perception in Transmodal Fiction: New Russian Subjectivity
Katerina Lakhmitko, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

V.    Politics and Social Action
10. Nothing but Mammals: Post-Soviet Sexuality after the End of History
Trevor Wilson, University of Pittsburgh
11. Postsocialist Platonov: The Question of Humanism and the New Russian Left
Jonathan Brooks Platt, University of Pittsburgh

VI.    Afterword
Keti Chukhrov, an interview by Alina Kotova about Love Machines