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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



Unreal States: Mapping the Imaginary After the USSR

Eliot Borenstein • New York University 

February 19th @ 6pm Zoom

The post-Soviet 21st century has been the battleground between two competing notions of the nation and/or state:  the nation as primordial entity validated by centuries of historical recognition vs. the state as a social construction created by international agreements, sheer will, and media narratives. The decade-long conflict between Russian and Ukraine may well have materialist and strategic underpinnings, but it has been waged in the Russian media as a contest between “real” states (such as Russia) and “imaginary” states that have no “legitimate” basis for existence (Ukraine).  When Benedict Anderson’s “imaginary communities” and Louis Althusser’s ideology as an “imaginary relationship” to the real world meet the retrograde, improvisational nationalism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the very real war between two countries is constantly framed as the struggle between reality and fantasy. In the attempts to deploy national myths as justification for a war of conquest, Putinism reveals a sense of history that is tantamount to nationalistic fandom.

Get Real
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Center for the Humanities · 95 Pearl Street, Middletown, CT 06459

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