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For critics of socialism, the “pastness” of socialism, especially as defunct state projects, is often useful as a tool for relegating socialism to a dead-end of world history. In this way, the scholarly discourses on “(post)socialism” can effectively become, wittingly and unwittingly, gestures of condemnation. In the “Future Pasts” panel, however, we recruit the history of socialist projects into the ongoing struggle for a better future. In the field of transitional justice, Selbi Durdyieva reimagines a “transition” outside of the grammar of (neo)liberal peace, attempting instead to rethink transitional justice “beyond the ‘End of History.’” David Leupold, working between the disciplines of sociology, geography and history, interrogates the relics of socialist urbanization for insights into seismic security, urban growth, affordable housing, and ecological sustainability. Christina Novakov-Ritchey critically re-examines the future of “postsocialism” itself, taking the concept as the starting point for imagining an insurgent pedagogy that refuses the insistent decoupling and defanging of anticolonial and communist pasts as well as futures.


Rethinking the Goals and Vocabulary of Transitional Justice: A Move Towards Socialist Model
Transitional justice (‘TJ’) as a field has emerged more than three decades ago, the term was coined by Ruti Teitel, reflecting on the ‘third wave’ of democratization, after the fall of military dictatorships in Latin America, and the breakup of the Soviet Union. Transitional justice deals with wide-range of processes a society undertakes in order to overcome the legacies of the past regime. Though it has been claimed that TJ is neutral and apolitical, it has shown the bias towards liberal ideology. For transitioning states, socialism has never been seen as a desired model, and the pervasive thinking of the post-Cold War Era within the paradigms of (neo/late) liberalism with sprinkles of welfare model, was seen as a desired outcome. At the same time, the experience has shown that the teleological inclination towards (neo)liberalism led to inequality, poverty, uneven wealth distribution, re-emergence of conflict and oppression. Thus, the goals of TJ require rethinking beyond the ‘End of History.’

This paper inclines towards more radical thinking, engaging in a thought experiment of what the socialist future (rather than liberal peace) of transitioning states would look like. To do so, this work aims to deconstruct the key concepts of TJ (‘violence,’ ‘conflict,’ ‘civil society,’ and ‘trauma’), which were borrowed from liberal vocabulary, and consider how they would look like if derived from the vocabulary of socialist thinking. Drawing on the examples of cases when the past exigencies never became the issues of the past, the paper looks at socialism as a possible imaginary for transitional justice. This way, we can speak not only of post-socialism, but also of post-transitional justice, where socialism becomes both a methodology and a mechanism to bring about long-lasting change.


Remainders of an unfinished future: The ‘ancien materiality’ of socialist urban planning in the present-day Caucasus and Central Asia
As one of the most ambitious and embattled modernist projects of the 20th century, state socialism sought to fundamentally and irrevocably transform societal life. Understanding the “city of the future” as the prime laboratory where the “new human” was to be created, Soviet urban planners aspired to inscribe the ethics of socialism into the material fabric of the city (e.g. Collier 2011). Today, three decades after the fall of the USSR, Soviet-era materiality is simultaneously relict of the past and silent remainder of a future-that-was-not in a rapidly changing, neo-liberal urban space.

Cross-cutting Urban Sociology, Social Geography and the History of the Soviet South (Caucasus and Central Asia), I explore not only how urbanity was created, but how as a physical remainder of the ancien régime, they condition social relations in present-day Bishkek and Yerevan. Engaging with the wide-spread consensus that space shapes and, in return, is shaped by social relations, this paper asks: which role plays urban materiality that has outlived the system to which it owes its existence? And: how does urban space informed by the visions of Soviet urban planners and the goal to attain a socialist society inform our perceptions three decades later – and which answers does it provide to questions that have persisted to this day such as seismic security, urban growth, protection of green spaces and access to affordable living space?

Maybe after all, in the shadow of the so called “ultimate failure” there are still things we can learn from the so called ‘failed experiment of the Soviets’ that tells us not only about life in the “foreign land” of a bygone past but about the challenges, aspirations and failures that mark our lives in the here-and-now.


Postsocialist Performance as Insurgent Pedagogy
This presentation examines the possibility of pedagogical approaches to postsocialism that refuse the area studies frame. Teaching postsocialism in American classrooms poses considerable difficulties as students generally lack any knowledge of the historical trajectory of socialism or the geography of Eastern Europe and Asia. Within the university, the study of postsocialism is generally encased within the logic of area studies, which insists upon the regionalism of the knowledges produced in the former Second World, while silencing the Second World’s interdependency with the Third World. Foregrounding the persistent exchange of ideas between decolonization and communist praxis, insurgent postsocialist pedagogy reimagines the world as postsocialist—a world which extends from Angola to Venezuela to Uzbekistan. Teaching the interrelationship of decolonization and communist movements pushes back against the ways that both postsocialist discourse has had its anticolonial pasts erased and academic decolonization discourses have been purged of their communist legacies. This presentation offers a speculative proposal for a radical treatment of postsocialism in education through the media of performance and video art.