Maria Engström is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages at the Department of Modern Languages, Uppsala University. Her research focuses on the post-Soviet conservatism and right-wing intellectual milieu, the Orthodox Church and Russian politics, Cosmism and Russian utopian imagination, the late Soviet counterculture, the imperial aesthetics in contemporary Russian art, and Russian queer visual culture.
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Current Project: Visuality without Visibility: Queer Visual Culture in Post-Soviet Russia (funded by the Swedish Research Council, 2017-2019)
Maria Engström (PI) & Vlad Strukov (CI)
The project explores the history of queer visuality in Russian arts and media and how it’s been appropriated by the government, disabling queer visibility and disempowering LGBTQ communities in their struggle for civil rights. While we focus on art communities and practices such as painting, sculpture, photography and film, we’re concerned with broader social and political issues regarding free expression of identity and civil rights. Russia provides a case for the countries that share a legacy of communist ideology, sexual oppression and control. We’ll use an interdisciplinary approach of visual studies, work with archival materials, and uphold the critical study of images to analyse post-Soviet queer visuality.
Through our research and planned activities (international workshops, conferences and publications) we aim to write a cultural history of queer visual culture in post-Soviet Russia, theorise the concept of the gay avant-garde as a culture of radical transgression, develop the interdisciplinary field of queer and visual studies by examining a non-western, neoauthoritarian context and expand the domain of Russian Studies, especially by documenting and analysing new ontologies of queerness.
The project will generate societal impact by informing the public about Russian queer visual culture and elaborating on its activist potential. Since sexual identity is part of Russian foreign policy, we’ll contribute to promoting security and understanding in contemporary Europe.
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