What was fascism? What was communism? What is neoliberalism? Jessica Pisano’s current work revisits these questions through an historical ethnography of a single street in western Ukraine that ends in a barbed wire fence. In her GIDEST seminar, Jessica will discuss a turbulent period in the life of this street—“a period that may have something to teach us, if we are able to listen,” she writes.
Three decades into the twentieth century, residents of this street confronted rapid political change. The Hungarian army has just retaken the area after interwar Czechoslovak rule, and the population is negotiating new, restrictive citizenship rules and changing laws about migrants and border regimes. Soon, some of street’s residents will be deported and murdered: first because they are members of an ethnic minority with irregular citizenship status, then, just three years later, simply because they are members of that ethnic minority.
Both those who were deported and those who remained left behind material traces of their lives. What can those traces tell us about the social order in which they lived? What did those who remained do when their neighbors were deported, and how did they think about their responsibilities? How did different members of this society think about the relationship between legality and morality? Finally, after violence, amidst loss, ellipses, and silence, what kinds of knowledge are needed to read a landscape?
Jessica Pisano is a 2018-19 GIDEST Fellow. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University and is currently Associate Professor and Chair of the Politics Department at the New School for Social Research. She is a longtime associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. Pisano has written extensively on contemporary and twentieth century politics and political economy in Eastern Europe. She currently is completing a book about capitalism and the state in contemporary Ukraine and Russia, focusing on local command performances of democratic institutions.