Ep. #72 – Alexei Yurchak

Posted by on May 18, 2017
Ep. #72 – Alexei Yurchak

To help us sort through a week dominated by spiraling Russo-American political intrigue, we welcome (13:01) to the podcast Berkeley anthropologist, Alexei Yurchak, analyst extraordinaire of all things late Soviet and post Soviet, and author of the award-winning Everything was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton, 2005). We trace the connections between that project’s exploration of culture and politics at the end of state socialism and Alexei’s current research on the scientists who have been working to preserve Lenin’s body since 1924. We talk about the fascinating intersection of biopolitics and necropolitics involved in the effort to maintain Lenin’s body in a lifelike state for almost a century, how discursive hegemony of form in the late Soviet period also informed corporeal hegemony of form, the results of this science that you can find in your own pharmacy, and the network of political leaders’ bodies across the world that Soviet and now Russian scientists have worked to preserve. Alexei dispels the idea that cloning was ever on the table in this project; but explains that his interlocutors do believe that they can now keep Lenin’s body in a near-life state in perpetuity. We return from there to the contemporary political chaos and what Alexei makes of the Trump-Putin entanglement stories currently dominating the headlines. Alexei shares his concerns about the powerful return of Russophobia to the United States, about what popular characterizations of Russia get wrong, and about how anti-Russian sentiment may provide a convenient excuse to defer a serious examination of the root causes of Trumpism. Ready to take a break from the political hysteria? Then listen on!