Upcoming Talk: "Decolonization in Action: Dealing with (un)wanted heritage during the Russo-Ukrainian war"

Join us on April 18 for a talk by Stuart Ramsey Tompkins Visiting Professor Valentyna Kharkhun.

30 March 2023

Join us on April 18 at 2 pm in Tory 2-58 for a talk by Valentyna Kharkhun entitled "Decolonization in Action: Dealing with (un)wanted heritage during the Russo-Ukrainian war".

Talk Summary: This lecture provides an overview of Ukraine’s politics of dismantling monuments from 2014 until the beginning of 2023 to clarify decolonization as the primary method to oppose Russian aggression, to remodel Ukrainian cultural space, and ultimately to reconsider Ukrainian national identity by eliminating Soviet and Russian domination. This lecture delves into following questions: Why are monuments important when constructing cultural space and creating public imagination about a common past and then later become the main symbols of decolonization? What are the circumstances that started the “monument wars,” and who initiated the vanquishing of the contested monuments? How does dismantling monuments as a mnemonic security action influence a society’s remembrance of a contested past, and how might it change identity politics as well as the biographical self-narrative of the state? The presenter argues that dismantling monuments as a decolonization strategy is beneficial in the cleansing of public spaces as well as highlights a reinforced Ukrainian identity with strong anti-Soviet and anti-Russian sentiment.

Bio: Valentyna Kharkhun is a Professor with the Ukrainian Literature and Journalism Department of Nizhyn Mykola Gogol State University (Ukraine). She is the author of two books, six textbooks and more than one hundred articles. Throughout her career, she has worked almost exclusively on the relationship between ideology and culture, focusing on the following topics: Ukrainian modernist writings; the arts under Soviet rule; the socialist realist canon in Ukrainian and Russian Literatures; and the ideologies which drive representations of the memory of communism in museums of Central and Eastern European countries. Currently, she is working on a book entitled “Multi-Faceted Memory: Exhibiting the Soviet Era in Ukrainian Museums.”

She is the holder of a Fulbright fellowships (Pennsylvania State University, 2005-2006; Columbia University, 2011-2012), J. Mianovsky and Queen Jadwiga fellowships at Jagellonian University, Poland (2008, 2009), Ivan Vyhovsky fellowship at Warsaw University (2014-2015), the George F. Kennan fellowship (Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, 2016). Currently, she is the Stuart Ramsey Tompkins Visiting Professor at University of Alberta.