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Durham University

Open World Research Initiative (OWRI)

The Transnationalism of Post-Soviet Cinemas

In this project, Dr Dušan Radunović explores articulations of transnationalism in the post-Soviet space, focusing on the cinemas of the Russian Federation and the Transcaucasian republics: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Particular attention is paid to the following set of issues: (a) transnational modes of film production and distribution; (b) the concept of exilic authorship; and (c) cinematic representations of border-crossing, migration and displacement. One of the key aims of this project is to reposition the study of transnationalism in the post-Soviet space beyond the traditional categories of political theory and among the unofficial, but all-pervasive, social undercurrents made up of people’s everyday concerns, strivings and desires. Its ambition is to use the study of cinema to start the process of rethinking the apparatus within and by which we understand how new group and individual identities are formed in this multinational geopolitical area.

In 'Defining Transnationalism', Contemporary European History, 14 (2005), 421-439, Patricia Clavin has located the concept of transnationalism in the interstices of the official and the unofficial, public and private, biological and political. Transnationalism, Clavin argues, is ‘first and foremost about people: the social spaces they inhabit, the networks they form and the ideas they exchange’ (422). This positioning of trans-nationalisms outside traditional categories of political theory testifies to our glaring need to rethink the apparatus within and by which we conceive of our group and individual identities. Nowhere is this urge to rearticulate the terms of our belonging to a socially constructed identity felt more acutely than in the post-Soviet space where, in the wake of the collapse of Soviet multi-nationalism, new identities are built by generating exclusions, inventing adversaries and drawing boundaries, territorial and symbolic ones alike.

Contrary to the homogenising effect of new national narratives, though, there exists an unofficial, but all-pervasive social undercurrent made up of people’s everyday concerns, strivings and desires. The tension between nation-building processes and practices of everyday life, which permeates the societal dynamics of post-Soviet nation states, is one of the starting premises of this project. Pursuing the experiential and affective figuration of transnationalism in the post-Soviet space, this project focuses on the national cinemas of post-Soviet Russia and the Trans-Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) as the primary locus in which this powerful undercurrent is articulated. Contemporary films from the region, such as The Other Bank (Ovashvili, 2008) and The Machine which Makes Everything Disappear (Gurchiani, 2012) will be discussed along thematic and production lines.

In addition to studying current framings of transnationalism in the national cinemas of the post-Soviet space, the project looks at early articulations of transnationalism in the Soviet cinema of the 1920s. It will map the development of the Georgian film studio in Tbilisi (Sakhkinmretsvi studio) from its institutional establishment in September 1921 to the end of the decade. Several key cinematic texts from this period, from Ivane Perestiani’s Arsena Dzhordzhiashvili (1921) to Nikoloz Shengelaia’s Eliso (1927), will be examined alongside the structural and political transformations of the Studio and of Soviet Georgian film production more generally during the period. The role of the Soviet ministries of Education (Narkompros) and Nationalities (Narkomnats) in the establishing and shaping of the film production in Georgia will be given particular attention.

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