Accueil > Screening socalism: visual culture in eastern europe

DSPO 1865A - Screening Socalism: Visual Culture in Eastern Europe

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The purpose of this course is threefold. First, the course aims to offer an introduction to the everyday life and politics of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Twenty three years after the downfall of communism, our knowledge of lives beyond the “Berlin Wall” has significantly expanded. Cultural studies, in particular, have enhanced our understanding of the concrete workings of socialism. Attention has been brought to the diverse historical trajectories of the various “popular democracies”, as well as to the need for a cautious periodization. In order to grasp both common trends and specific experiences, the course will first and foremost rely on visual material : movies, documentaries, photographs, cartoons, maps. The assumption here is that images provide an especially rich - and all too often neglected - source in doing research on the past. Second, the course will provide an introduction to visual culture, as well as to the anthropology of images. We live in a world that is surrounded with and immersed into images (film, television, digital media). The challenge now is to develop tools to analyze the production and the reception of these visual media, as well as their interactions with script and space. How can we place visual forms in an historical, cultural and aesthetic context? Moreover, how can we make sense of the experiences and practices of seeing? The social construction of vision shall therefore lie at the core of the course. Finally, we shall venture into issues of sources, methods, and knowledge in social sciences. Which uses can social sciences make of visual materials? What caveats need to be avoided when “making images speak”? Art history, film studies, and visual anthropology, to quote but a few fields, have all tried to address these questions. In turn, students will be invited to engage with these issues as they work on their own research project for the course.


RAGARU, Nadège M. (Chargée de recherches à Sciences Po, CERI)

Course validation

Participation and readings. This seminar is based on discussion of shared readings and visual materials. Hence, it is of prime importance that students do engage with the print and visual sources they will be given. Participation will account for 25% of the final grade. Oral presentation of the compulsory readings and written texts. Every week, two students will be responsible for presenting and introducing the discussion on the visual documents and the compulsory readings (10 minutes per presentation). Their comments will be summarized in short papers (2 pages, TNR 11, single spaced) that will be circulated among their colleagues. The papers will account for 25% of the final grade. Research project and final paper. Finally, over the course of the semester, each student shall be asked to formulate a research project based on the collection of original visual material, write a final assignment (10 pages, TNR 11, single spaced) and present it in class. The research project shall account for 50% of the grade. The final draft will be due one week after the end of the course.

Required reading

  • Peter Sis, The Wall. Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain, Praha: Labyrint & Raketa, 2008
  • Marc Edele, “Strange Young Man in Stalin's Moscow: The Birth and Life of the Stiliagi, 1945-1953,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, 50, 2002 (1), p.37-61
  • Irene Dolling, “"We all love Paula but Paul is more important to us": Constructing a "socialist person" using the "femininity" of a working woman,” New German Critique, 82, Winter 2001, p.77-90

Additional required reading

  • Stilyagi by Valery Todorovsky, Russia, 2008
  • The Legend of the Party Photographer, by Cristian Mungiu, Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Höfer, Razvan Marculescu and Constantin Popescu (Tales from the Golden Age, Romania, 2009)
  • Legende von Paul und Paula by Heiner Carow, GDR, 1973
  • Zvezdi/Sterne (Stars) by Konrad Wolf, GDR-Bulgaria, 1959
  • The Great Communist Bank robbery [Marele jaf comunist] by Alexandru Solomon, Romania, 2004
  • Walesa. Man of Hope, Andrzej Wajda, Poland, 2013