June 1 - 3, 2018
Project Partner: Southern Federal University (Rostov-on-Don)
Theme of the 3rd conference:
A Hero of Our Time: (Inter) national symbolic public figures and their cult in the age of (post) modernity.
The most important component of the European Modern Era was the emergence of a secular culture that upheld the right to individual autonomy from the dictates of the church and the state. The formation of civil society institutions was accompanied by the emergence of the phenomenon of secular public figures: "public opinion leaders", "masters of minds", and "national heroes". The term "hero of our time" in the Russian tradition was borrowed from the writer Mikhail Lermontov. These are sociocultural personality types that become a symbol for an entire generation or several generations. They define the ethical, aesthetic and behavioral norms and practices of an era. These new cultural heroes successfully compete with the traditional hierarchy of authorities, significantly undermining the symbolic capital of monarchs and saints over time. One can find military leaders (Napoleon, Admiral Nelson, Marshal Zhukov), revolutionaries (Robespierre, Garibaldi, Lenin, Che Guevara), writers (Voltaire, Byron, Pushkin), public figures (Chernyshevsky, Kerensky, Sakharov), arbiters of fashion (Madame Récamier, Beau Brummell, Oscar Wilde), scientists (Pasteur, Edison, Einstein), businessmen (Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates) and even fictional characters (Werther, D'Artagnan, Harry Potter) among these iconic figures.
Populist politicians, dictators, athletes, film stars, models, and various media figures also become such "masters of minds" in the 20th and 21st centuries.
We would like to propose the following questions to be discussed at the conference:
- What social mechanisms (or ideological lacunae) give rise to such a personified institution of public opinion in the last three or four centuries?
- How is the cult figure formed and institutionalized in a particular era?
- What qualities turn these cultural heroes into a projection of collective hopes, fears, frustrations, and self-identification of their contemporaries?
- How quickly and in what way do the cultural heroes change in different periods?
- What are the similarities and differences between the "masters of minds" in different national contexts?
- What are the reasons of the recurrent re-actualization of the "heroes of old times"?
The conference will take place in Rostov-on-Don, the city well known for its brilliant scholars and energetic academic society as well as for its enjoyable cityscape and exceptional used books flea market.
The Organizing Committee reserves the right to select the papers. Travel grants and accommodation in Rostov-on-Don will be available for the conference participants.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The editorial board of the New Literary Observer journal and the European University at St. Petersburg have agreed to establish a long-term project organizing a series of annual international conferences under the common title of "Words and Things: the Anthropological Turn in the Humanities and Social Sciences", based on their common interest in the promotion of new knowledge in humanities and aiming to support and develop international academic connections.
The conference is conceived as a platform for the promotion of Russian humanitarian thought in the international academic community, as an instrument of raising the new generation of humanities scholars in Russia, thereby creating conditions for the emergence of new humanities centers in the Russian regions, and opposing the isolationist tendencies in academia and the public sphere.
The term "anthropological turn" is applied here to refer to the powerful intellectual trend gaining momentum throughout the 20th century. The "anthropologization" of the humanities and social sciences today is seen in the emergence of new disciplines such as historical, philosophical, cultural, sociological, economic, and medical anthropologies, among others. Most of the "disciplinary vogues" of the past three decades – such as oral history, gender studies, urban studies, history of emotions, memory, trauma, history of everyday life, corporeal theory, etc. – have somehow fit into this larger anthropological trend.
The works of academics of different ages and with varying research methods demonstrate a similar vector of motion within Russian humanitarian thought. In an extremely schematic fashion, it may be presented as a transition from the rigid and generalized total constructions to a more flexible, detailed, and individualized study of humans and culture; a shift from being centered around the text to visuality and corporality, from binary oppositions and intertextuality to cultural and philosophical anthropology.
The "anthropological turn" is partly associated with the collapse of the Soviet era with its entire system of sociocultural mythologems. For Russian scholars of humanities (and Russian studies in general) it engendered the critical re-thinking of perspectives and tools of their own profession, as well as the development of new conceptual categories and aesthetic landmarks and reforming the cultural field and its institutions.
At the same time, the broad framework of the "anthropological turn" is intended not so much to limit the topics of intellectual dialogue as to contribute to the latter's expansion and development in the direction of new methodological approaches, relevant to the intellectual challenges of the coming era.
We hope that the new research project will attract colleagues from related fields and will facilitate the departure of Russian researchers from the "Slavistics ghetto" into the international intellectual space.