• Postcolonial Estrangements: Claiming a Space between Stalin and Hitler.

    Serguei Alex Oushakine (see profile)
    CLCS European Regions, LLC Slavic and East European, TC Memory Studies, TC Postcolonial Studies, TM Literary and Cultural Theory
    Culture--Study and teaching, Slavic literature
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    21st Century Literature, memory, monuments, postcolonial, war atrocities, Cultural studies, War literature
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    In this essay, I follow debates about forms and sites of memorialization in post- Soviet Belarus. Begun during perestroika, the public discussions about Khatyn’ and Kuropaty eventually evolved into persistent attempts to realign the Soviet past along new narrative axes. Most prominently, this discursive reformatting of the socialist experience was reflected in various gestures of withdrawal and distancing. I suggest that these discursive and mnemonic moves—from commemorating victims to memorializing victimhood—could be seen as signs of the emergence and development of postcolonial reasoning in post- Soviet Belarus. The postcolonial estrangement that these historicist projects have produced is a consequence of a utopian search for sources of authenticity outside the power structures imposed by “occupation regimes.” So far, this retrospective quest for a safe place “in- between” has resulted in a series of dead ends. Instead of bringing the nation together, it has polarized the society. Instead of providing an attractive alternative to the moral duplicity of state socialism, it has offered a historical justification for ethical relativism. These deadlocks and false turns of postcolonial studies of socialism can be seen as reflecting the early stage of this intellectual movement. Alternatively, they may signify the emergence of a different—conservative and nostalgic—form of postcoloniality. In either case, these debates helpfully outline the uneasy process of the retroactive creation of colonial subjectivity, demonstrating how the act of reclaiming an important historical place can become indistinguishable from being beholden to this place.
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