Courses

Communism as ‘Heritage’, Heritage as ‘Nostalgia’

vukov-header-3
13
Nov, 2019

About the Course:

The course introduces students to major aspects of remembering and interpreting the communist period in Eastern Europe through the juxtaposition of the notions of heritage and nostalgia. Drawing on a variety of approaches, cases and materials reflecting the socialist past in the countries of Eastern Europe, the course discusses the difficulties of evaluating the period through heritage lenses and the processes of nostalgia emerging in its revisiting. Through presentations, class discussions, readings and assignments, students are introduced to main issues in the historical and anthropological study of the period and are encouraged to undertake their own research in this field. The course will help students to gain knowledge of the political, social and cultural practices in the second half of the twentieth century in Eastern Europe, and to develop skills for critical reflection and analysis of this period.

The course includes lectures and discussions organized in 15 consecutive topics (with two academic hours each), which address key aspects of the social and cultural life in the communist period and their interpretation through heritage and nostalgia lenses after 1989. The topics in the course include: theoretical and methodological approaches to heritage and nostalgia; studying socialism from historical and anthropological perspectives; history and memory, trauma and nostalgia for the communist period; the town and the village – internal mobility and residence practices; nostalgia for socialist everyday life (work practices, organization of free time, public and private spaces); socialist consumption and its nostalgic potential; post-Soviet nostalgia, Yugonostalgia, Ostnostalgia; socialist heritage and museum practices after 1989; popular culture under socialism; socialist generations and transmission of cultural experience; the memory of socialism – between allergy, nostalgia, and amnesia.

Disciplinary Scope:

  • Anthropology;
  • Ethnology;
  • Modern History.

Keywords:

communism, socialism, post-socialism, heritage, nostalgia, modern history, anthropology, everyday life, labour organization, free time and leisure, residence practices, public and private space, consumption, Soviet Union, Yugonostalgia, Ostnostalgia, public rituals, commemorations, popular culture, museum representations, memory and forgetting

Overview:

The classes in the course consist of a lecture part on the respective class topic and discussions on the texts for each class. The lectures include presentations of photo, audio and video materials, which will allow students to gain a more thorough understanding about the discussed social and cultural practices from the communist period. Before each class, students will be given assignments and instructions for preliminary preparation, observations and data-collecting on the respective topic – these will be used to trigger the presentations and discussions for the following class. The texts for reading are organized in a reader, with additional texts offered for the different topics.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students will be familiar with major topics of historical and anthropological research of the communist past in Eastern Europe, and with the main approaches for studying the period from the viewpoint of heritage and nostalgia frameworks. During the course, students will develop skills to: 

  • Discuss and analyze major processes and events related to the communist period in Eastern Europe;
  • Reflect critically on publications and interpretations of this period;
  • Create individual and group repositories of data gathered on topics revealing different aspects of life under communism;
  • Undertake their own research on artefacts, practices and testimonies from the communist past and the post-communist transition.

Student Performance and Evaluation:

During the semester students are expected to attend at least 2/3 of the classes, to read the basic texts provided for each topic, and to participate in class discussions (this component amounts in total to 30% of the final grade). Each student is supposed to carry out individual research work on one of the topics and to deliver it as a presentation of 10–15 minutes based on specially collected and studied materials for the respective session (this amounts to 30% of the final grade). The presentation may be based on fieldwork that was carried out, on materials gathered, interviews held, and practices observed in relation to the respective topic. The main requirement is that the presented empirical materials should be gathered personally by the student and their interpretation should be linked with the use of literature for the course. After the end of the semester, students must take a final examination (equal to 40% of the final grade), which consists of a written part on one of the course topics and an oral part on the texts from the course reader.

Course Content

Total learning: 15 lessons Time: 2 semesters

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Nikolai Vukov

Department of Ethnology, Plovdiv University "Paisii Hilendarski"