ABOUT: COMPLAINTS: Cultures of Grievance in Eastern Europe and Eurasia (March 8-9, 2013, Princeton University)

Complaint March Conference Poster_2013COMPLAINTS: Cultures of Grievance in Eastern Europe and Eurasia

March 8-9, 2013, Princeton University

ORGANIZERS:

PROGRAM in LAW and PUBLIC  AFFAIRS;

PROGRAM in RUSSIAN and EURASIAN STUDIES

Complaints are one way that the powerless and the dispossessed communicate their disagreement, dissatisfaction, and resentment to the powerful and the dominant.  As a legal genre, a communication tool, and a narrative structure, complaints have a long history in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, from the peasants’ petitions to the Russian tsar to the dissidents’ letters to the party committees and from the complaint books in Soviet grocery stores to denunciation reports to the secret police. This conference plans to examine the genre of complaints in the public culture of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

Among the questions we ask are:   To whom are grievances addressed?  Against what do people complain?   Do grievances turn into formalized complaints in law or do petitioners seek discretionary exceptions?  We start with the grievances and follow where they lead – which is sometimes into law, sometimes into politics and sometimes into the drawer.

In his After the Wall: East Meets West in the New Berlin, John Borneman reminded us that legal petitions in East Germany were in fact a form of legal privilege, a politically legitimized framework of public discourse that “allowed the citizenry a licit means of responding to and interrogating the economic and political structure.” Nancy Ries in her Russian Talk: Culture and Conversation during Perestroika pointed out another important aspect of complaints: their formulaic structure and repetitive reproduction turn them into “ritualized discourses” through which realms of politics, economics, and law are navigated and negotiated.

The conference Complaints: Cultures of Grievance in Eastern Europe and Eurasia will build on a diverse scholarship on public criticism and dissatisfaction by bringing together an international and interdisciplinary group of researchers from a range of disciplines including law, history, anthropology, sociology, politics, philosophy, psychology, art and literary criticism. The conference will trace the emergence and development of cultures of grievances – those ritualized discourses in which responses to the authorities are merged with their interrogation.

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

Friday, 8 March
9:15
Welcome and introductions

 9:30-11:30 a.m.  I. STATES OF COMPLAINTS: PETITIONING AUTHORITIES
CHAIR: Kim Lane Scheppele
(Princeton University)

Anne O’Donnell (Princeton University)
Revolution and its Discontents: The Central Bureau of Complaint, 1918-1922

Martin Dimitrov  (Tulane University)
What the Party Wanted to Know: Citizen Complaints as a “Barometer of Public Opinion” in Communist Bulgaria        

László Kürti (University of Miskolc, Hungary)
Men, Women and Trusted Cadres: The Life and Death of a Grievance Committee in Hungary

James Heinzen (Rowan University)
Bribes, Brokers, and a Judicial ‘Zhalobiurokratiia’: Complaints and Corruption in the USSR Supreme Court during Late Stalinism, 1945-1953

DISCUSSANT:  Eugene Huskey (Stetson University)

11:30-11:45 a.m. Break

 11:45-1:30 p.m. II. FROM PLEAS TO DEMANDS: LEARNING TO CLAIM
CHAIR: Deborah Kaple
(Princeton)

Kristy Ironside (History, University of Chicago)
“I Beg You Not to Reject My Plea”: Asking the Soviet State for Money, 1945-1953

Olga Linkiewicz (Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences)
“Petition the Lord with Prayer”: The Dynamics of Self-Esteem and Worldview Perspective in Peasants’ Laments and Remonstrances   

Elena Ion (Department of Architecture, Berkeley)
Judicializing Land-Use Planning:  Litigation and Urban Politics in Contemporary Bucharest

DISCUSSANT:  Jane Burbank (NYU)

1:30-2:45 p.m. Break

2:45-4:30 p.m. III. LANGUAGES OF DISSATISFACTION: COMMUNICATING DISAGREEMENT
CHAIR: Margaret H. Beissinger
  (Princeton University)

Anna Dolidze (University of Western Ontario) and Stephanie DeGooyer (Willamette University)
The Revolution Will be Anglicized: Protest Semantics in Georgia

Regina Smyth (Indiana University)
Defining Common Ground: The Language of Network Mobilization in Russian Protests

Elena Bogdanova (Centre for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg)
Complaining to Putin: a Paradox of the Hybrid Regime

DISCUSSANT: Neringa Klumbyte (Miami University)

4:30-4:45p.m.  Break

4:45-6:30 p.m. IV. THE ART OF PROTEST: SCANDAL, BLASPHEMY, AND COMEDY
CHAIR: Caryl Emerson (
Princeton University)

Shawn Clybor (Manhattan College)
Builderly Complaints: ‘Scandal in the Picture Gallery’ as Socialist Realist Subversion in Stalinist Czechoslovakia

Anya Bernstein (Anthropology/Social Studies, Harvard University)
Trials and Triangulations: Blasphemy as Moral Injury in the Russian Art Wars 

Milla Fedorova (Department of Slavic Languages, Georgetown University)
Give me the Book of Complaints: Complaint in Soviet Comedy

DISCUSSANT: Irena G. Gross (Princeton)

Day 2, Saturday, 9 March

9:30-11:15 a.m. V.  DISCONTENT IN UNIFORM: GRIEVANCES IN FORMATION
CHAIR: Kathryn Hendley
(University of Wisconsin)

Irina Marin (Pembroke College, University of Oxford)
Military Petitionarism in the Habsburg Monarchy: a Romanian Case Study

Amieke Bouma (Free University, Amsterdam)
The Ostdeutsches Kuratorium von Verbänden: Court Petitions and the Socialist Tradition of Petitioning

Gilles Favarel-Garriques (Sciences Po / CERI, Paris)
Usual Suspect? Criticizing Police in Today’s Russia

DISCUSSANT: Anson Rabinbach (Princeton University)

11:15-11:30 a.m. Break

11:30-1:15 p.m. VI. THE CULTURE OF VICTIMHOOD: HIDDEN TRANSCRIPTS
CHAIR:  Olga Hasty
(Princeton).

Sergei Antonov (Harriman Institute, Columbia University)
A Culture of Victimhood in Pre-Reform Russian Law: Suspicion, Power, and Legal Narratives

Maria Galmarini (James Madison University)
“Where is My Right?… Who Will Help Me?”: Legality and Morality in Disabled People’s Claims to Social Assistance, 1918-1950      

Katharina Matro (Stanford  University)
“This is Not Our Land”: Letters from Settlers in Poland’s New Western Territories, 1945-1951

DISCUSSANT: Jan Kubik (Rutgers University)

1:15-2:30 p.m. Break

2:30-4:15 p.m. VII. COMPLAINTS AS A WAY OF LIFE: NARRATING GRIEVANCES
CHAIR: Serguei A. Oushakine
(Princeton University)

Katherine Lebow (Vienna)
Autobiography as Complaint: Polish Social Memoir Between the World Wars

Christine Varga-Harris (Illinois State University)
I Complain, Therefore I Am – ‘Soviet’: Petitioning as a Ritual of Belonging to Soviet Society

Mia Serban (Ramapo College of New Jersey)
Housing Nationalization Petitions and the Creation of Socialist Legal Consciousness in Romania (1945-1965)

DISCUSSANT: Nancy Ries (Colgate University)

5:15-4:30 p.m. Break

4:30-6:30 p.m. VIII. ROUND TABLE:
OVERFLOWING GRIEVANCES : STUDYING DISSATISFACTION IN EASTERN EUROPE AND EURASIA

Participants: Jane Burbank, Kathryn Hendley, Eugene Huskey, Nancy Ries, Kim Lane Scheppele.

Moderator: Serguei  A. Oushakine

Organizing committee:

  • Kim Lane Scheppele, Director, Law and Public Affairs Program, as well as Woodrow Wilson School, Sociology and Human Values, Princeton University
  • Kathryn Hendley, Law and Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison as well as Law and Public Affairs Fellow, Princeton University
  • Michael Gordin, Director, Fung Global Fellows Program, as well as Department of History, Princeton University;
  • Irena Grudzinska Gross, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University as well as Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences;
  • Serguei Alex. Oushakine, Director, Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies as well as Anthropology and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University.

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