I am a Faculty of Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the Women & Gender Studies Institute of the University of Toronto, where I am working on a research project about Russian queer theater and dramatic writing.
My research project seeks to challenge the widely held perception of Russian culture as an arena for exclusively heteronormative discourse by uncovering the vibrant world of queer drama from the years before the 1917 Revolution until today. I examine queerness as an object of artistic exploration and a performative strategy that has enjoyed popularity on page and stage in Russia even at a time when homosexuality was criminalized (pre-1922; 1934-1993). I zoom in on the stories of queer lives staged in theaters across Russia and complement them with the analysis of production texts (plays and librettos) and interviews with directors to identify languages that Russian theater has developed and used to inscribe queerness into Russian cultural imagination.
Within this project, I work on two monographs: the first is a short introduction to a history of Russian queer theater, which traces the development of queer dramatic writing and its performance since the Silver Age until the Putin era. The second book focuses on the 21st-century queer drama and explores its deep entanglements with Russia’s nation project which has relied on normative gender and sexuality as its cornerstones. I suggest that queer dramatic works trouble the hegemonic discourse of the state just as much as they amplify it, which is why my book argues for seeing contemporary LGBTQ-themed dramatic narratives as thus far uncredited co-writers of the story of the nation (“ghostwriters of the nation”), as I exploring their role in the creation and transformation of this discourse. As part of this research project, I have also compiled and translated an anthology of contemporary queer plays by Russian playwrights that comes out with Bloomsbury Methuen Drama in October 2021.
In my earlier research project that I undertook during my doctoral studies, I worked on proposing a literary theory of privacy as a performative formation that is shaped by multi-directional forces of revelation and concealment in literary works. I analyzed texts published in two core Soviet literary journals—Novyi mir and Oktaibr’, as well as dissident writings published in samizdat and tamizdat, to outline the spectrum of concepts that nurtured the idea of privacy in the late Soviet literary imagination. As I zoomed in on spatial, temporal, and verbal forms of privacy in literary texts, I examined how privacy, literature, and politics were bound together in a vibrant spectacle of the continuous interaction between the state, cultural elites, and the citizens, in which thresholds were erected and crossed incessantly. My forthcoming book based on this dissertation demonstrates that fictional private sites were battlefields for the production and contestation of late Soviet ideologies, and the exposure of these literary wars to the public eye played a fundamental role in shifting the borders between the private and the public spheres in the authoritarian late Soviet Russia.
My current research and teaching interests include twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russian literature and the arts, gender and sexuality in Eastern European and Eurasian cultures, sites and articulations of marginality, Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian contemporary drama, performativity in Russian and Soviet culture and politics, publics and citizenship in the digital age, and digital body and posthumanism.