NSSR Work on Ukraine, 1 Year After the Invasion

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, New School for Social Research community members have been connecting, reflecting, expressing solidarity, and taking action through scholarship, activism, partnerships, dialogue, and public engagement. One year later, this work continues. Major highlights include:

  • The New School signed a memorandum of understanding for academic exchange and cooperation with the Kyiv School of Economics and V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, which will allow for the exchange of faculty, students, and researchers, the organization of joint research projects, and more.

  • Oksana Kis, a senior scholar from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, has joined NSSR as a 2022-2023 Visiting Professor in the Anthropology department. A historian and anthropologist, Kis works on Ukrainian women’s history, feminist anthropology, oral history, and gender transformations in post-socialist countries.

  • The New University in Exile Consortium has assisted Ukrainian scholars and students both inside and outside Ukraine:
    • They made a $50,000.00 gift (funds provided to the Consortium by the Rockefeller Foundation) to the Kharkiv Karazin University Foundation. The funds are to be used to enable the faculty and students to continue their work at the university by, for example, providing a heated communal space where faculty and students can work
    • They donated 200 laptops from Siemens for Ukrainian scholars
    • They also provide stipends for Ukrainian academics to co-lead online Consortium seminars.
    • Their petition in support of Ukraine has 2,485 signatures, including many university presidents. 
  • The Transregional Center for Democratic Studies ran the Transregional Dialogues Fellowship program in Fall 2022, which connected MA, PhD, and independent scholars from Ukraine, all of whom experienced interruption or delay in their academic lives, with their peers at NSSR who are working on similar sets of issues. Fellows were organized into informal teams made of one Ukrainian and one NSSR scholar, each under the umbrella of a larger group working on one of four themes: The Condition of Postcoloniality; The Politics of Belonging; Democracy and its Variants; and Citizenship: The Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion. Fellows engaged in online working group meetings, work-in-progress seminars, guest lectures, faculty advising, and conversations with other New School organizations like the Memory Studies Group and the Democracy Seminar. The Transregional Dialogues program will conclude with an online conference on March 31-April 1st, where Fellows will present their work.

  • TCDS also hosted the Fall 2022 Conversatorium on Ukraine, a weeklong series of five talks given by scholars and intellectuals whose work focuses on Ukraine. View talk videos on this YouTube playlist.

  • Jessica Pisano, Associate Professor of Politics, taught the Summer 2022 ULEC War in Ukraine: History, Politics, and Culture. With the support of the NSSR Dean’s Office, the ULEC features an integrated public lecture series, with speakers addressing topics from architecture and public art to urban sociology and rural food production. Speakers include scholars as well as individuals involved in keeping public utilities running under bombardment, musicians continuing to perform in underground public spaces, and others.

  • Prof. Pisano’s latest book, Staging Democracy: Political Performance in Ukraine, Russia, and Beyond, was released in July 2022. “Staging Democracy moves beyond Russia and Ukraine to offer a novel economic argument for why some people support Putin and similar politicians. Pisano suggests we can analyze politics in both democracies and authoritarian regimes using the same analytical lens of political theater.

  • Prof. Pisano is also serving as a trustee of the Kharkiv Karazin University Foundation in Ukraine created to support the life of Karazin University during the war.

  • A group of NSSR faculty and students created Hromada, a blog that offers resources to understand Ukraine and the war on it through local reporting, history, culture, film, and humor. It also shares ways to support Ukrainians, through petitions, resources, protest information, donations and more. Faculty members include Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, Elzbieta Matynia, Inessa Medzhibovskaya, and Jessica Pisano. Graduate students include Ihor Andriichuk, Emmanuel Guerisoli, Karolina Koziura, Elisabeta L. Pop, Mariia Shynkarenko, Malkhaz Toria, and Adrian Totten.

  • The Democracy Seminar, based in the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, maintained an active Forum on the war, with written contributions from scholars and journalists that offer critical accounts of the unfolding struggle against Russia’s attack on an independent nation and on democracy. It is also continuing to publish “Dispatches from Ukraine,” a collected series of dispatches from journalist Paweł Pieniążek, admiringly called “the poet laureate of hybrid war,” translated from the original Polish by Łukasz Chełmiński.

  • Public Seminar continues to publish a range of pieces on the war from NSSR faculty and students as well as scholars in and from Central and Eastern Europe.

  • Members of the Decolonizing Eastern European Studies Group Karolina Koziura, Mariia Shynkarenko, and Amanda Zadorian presented work on Ukrainian politics and history and questions of decoloniaity in a panel moderated by Jessica Pisano on February 24 in the series Decolonization in Focus, organized by the Davis Center at Harvard University with the support of 12 major centers for Slavic studies nationwide.

TCDS Transregional Dialogues Fellowship Fosters Collaboration Between Ukrainian and NSSR Scholars

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) at The New School for Social Research (NSSR) conceived of a new collaborative fellowship program pairing New School doctoral students and candidates with Ukrainian graduate students and independent scholars. Entitled “Transregional Dialogues: Rethinking the Past – Re-imagining the Future”, the program took place throughout the Fall 2022 semester.

In February 2022, TCDS was completing preparations for its 30th annual Democracy & Diversity Summer Graduate Summer Institute in Wroclaw, Poland, which has hosted many students from Ukraine. The war and the massive wave of refugees into Poland presented TCDS with a number of ethical questions: Should they follow through as planned with their 30th year of bringing together New School graduate students and their peers from East and Central Europe? Should the housing for TCDS participants and faculty be used for refugees instead? What are the obligations of TCDS and NSSR, built by refugee scholars from Hitler’s Europe? Perhaps TCDS could best perform its mission by supporting isolated young scholars in Ukraine.

Their self-examination led to a new idea for a TCDS program that could be sustained during the war: a virtual site for a fellowship of minds, a space in which discussion and sharing of ideas could take place between doctoral students in Ukraine and their counterparts at NSSR. Given that many Ukrainians were either unwilling or unable to leave the country, the virtual Transregional Dialogues fellowship made sense.

TCDS worked with the NSSR student-led organization Hromada to identify Ukrainian junior scholars who could benefit from the fellowship. Together, they reached out to their connections in Ukraine to solicit nominations. Since many research and educational institutions were destroyed or inoperative due to the military conscription of faculty members, fellows were selected on the basis of their research commitments and academic contributions. As a result, the Ukrainian Transregional Dialogue fellows were a mix of MA, PhD, and independent scholars, all of whom experienced interruption or delay in their academic lives.

The fellows were led by Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies, and founding director of TCDS; Elisabeta (Lala) Pop, Politics PhD student and TCDS Program Manager; and a robust group of faculty advisors. Fellows were organized into informal teams made of one Ukrainian and one NSSR scholar, each under the umbrella of a larger group working on one of four themes: The Condition of Postcoloniality; The Politics of Belonging; Democracy and its Variants; and Citizenship: The Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion.

Over the course of the semester, fellows engaged in online working group meetings, work-in-progress seminars, guest lectures, faculty advising, and conversations with other New School organizations like the Memory Studies Group and the Democracy Seminar. Matynia explained that while the work of many fellows focused on Ukraine, the fellowship supported research more broadly concerned with “how to get out of the paradigm of colonial thinking, behavior, and regimes.”

The fellowship provided a unique opportunity to work not only across national borders, but across social science and humanities disciplines. As a result, the collaboration produced some of the timeliest research in academia. The real-time information from scholars with a deep understanding of Ukrainian culture and history is invaluable to the fellows, who are all working to articulate the mechanisms and effects of coloniality in different contexts. “This is the best initiative we’ve ever designed and launched. We were able to do something so out of the box because it came directly from the needs of scholars,” said Matynia.

While the Ukrainian fellows were beset with the realities of war, their research did not cease over the semester. “November [2022] present[ed] us with new challenges, as the electrical grid in Ukraine was massively damaged by the Russian air strikes. At one seminar, we missed one of the presenters from Kyiv, Kateryna Pesotska, who was unable to connect with us. Sadly, our efforts to pretend that things are normal — even if only for two hours at a time — became more and more difficult,” said Matynia.

Pop, who both facilitated the fellowship and took part in the Citizenship working group, explained that the fellows supported each other academically, psychologically, and socially. Because teaching is not possible in Ukraine, and many are unable to work with professors who have left the country or are part of the war effort, the Transregional Dialogues fellowship and other initiatives like it are essential for the survival of intellectuals in Ukraine.

Roksolana Makar, an independent scholar based in Ukraine whose work analyzes the global construct of Russian ballet and its status as a colonial export, spoke to Research Matters from the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, where she was taking part in an expedition to assess the damage done to Ukrainian cultural heritage by the Russian Army. She described her participation in the fellowship as one aspect of a multifold resistance. “I am trying not to engage myself in any activities that are not making me stronger in dealing with this situation in Ukraine. Developing my research and participating in working groups helps me to understand the war a bit more, and it helps Ukraine because we are talking to lots of international fellows and faculty abroad. This gives Ukraine a voice,” said Makar.

Mariia (Masha) Shynkarenko, a NSSR Politics PhD student, is Makar’s partner within the fellowship. Her work focuses on how Crimean Tartars have instrumentalized collective identities in their struggle for self-determination. While she is from Ukraine, she has spent recent years abroad pursuing her doctorate. She explained what she described as a big accomplishment of this fellowship: “We [had] 10 Ukrainian scholars that provide[d] us with such a different lens of what those in the West are used to.” Shynkarenko continued, “For a long time, The New School was a champion of subaltern voices but, when it comes to Eastern Europe, it has never been a part of these discussions. The lack of inclusion of Eastern Europe in post-colonial studies has led to a dismissal and misunderstanding of the war, which is in fact anti-colonial. I have felt for a long time that my voice wasn’t heard at all. Through the work being produced from this fellowship, we want to communicate that Eastern European societies are going through an anti-colonial struggle, not just some conflict.”

Alongside the work of the fellows, Transregional Dialogues facilitated a series of guest lectures that correspond to the four working group themes, with speakers Arjun Appadurai, Krzysztof Czyżewski, and Nadia Urbinati. Watch the lectures on the NSSR YouTube channel.

Transregional Dialogues will conclude with a conference March 31-April 1 featuring work advanced by the fellows, and open to NSSR faculty and scholars in related fields. “Of course, we want to present our fellows and to highlight their work, but we also want to inquire into ‘how the academy works in the time of war,’ said Matynia.

Additionally, join the TCDS’s Open House on February 16 to learn more about the rescheduled 30th Democracy & Diversity Institute this July in Wroclaw, Poland. Entitled “After Violence,” the Institute will feature the following classes and faculty members: Alice Crary and Alex Aleinikoff, “Climate Violence/Climate Justice;” Shireen Hassim, “Racecraft: Debates from Africa;” Jeffrey C. Isaac, “American Democracy on Knife’s Edge?”; and Elzbieta Matynia, “Romancing Violence.”

NSSR Welcomes Research Psychologist Shoshana Krohner as a Postdoctoral Fellow

The New School for Social Research is excited to welcome Shoshana Krohner as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Psychology Department.

Krohner is working within the Trauma and Affective Psychophysiology Lab headed by Wendy D’Andrea, Associate Professor of Psychology, and her work there focuses on emotion, cognition, and relational factors in complex trauma.

Krohner spoke with Research Matters about the connection between trauma and overall health, the importance of cultural-focused research, and her non-hierarchical approach to teaching.

RM: Could you say a bit about your academic journey? What was your path to becoming a Postdoctoral Fellow here at NSSR?

SK: I graduated with a major in Psychology from undergrad. I became interested in research, and ended up in a neuropsychology lab at a large rehabilitation institute in Detroit, doing research on traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The population there is mostly Black, mostly lower income so in the process of collecting all of this data, I saw how much social factors and social disadvantage, the lack of support systems, whether that’s family or more systematic, impacted people’s trajectory of recovery.

I was accepted to Wayne State University’s clinical psychology doctoral program, and worked in the Stress & Health lab [for a PhD in Clinical Psychology], working with Professor Mark Lumley….[M]y graduate training concentrated on developing and implementing emotion-focused and psychodynamic interventions for people who had [chronic pain and psychosomatic conditions]. In the course of graduate school, I became increasingly interested in the role of trauma in health, and I wound up developing an intervention for my dissertation study for individuals who have chronic pain and a significant history of childhood adversity. That work, along with my clinical training, fed my interest in complex trauma, and so when considering positions for postdoctoral fellowship, I was looking to join a team focused on trauma, which was a pivot away from my background in more traditional health psychology.

That’s how I wound up here with Wendy D’Andrea’s lab. Her research mostly focuses on complex trauma and dissociation, , studying psychophysiology and affect. I was excited about her work, as I had become interested in transitioning from applied interventions-based research to research that was more focused on mechanisms—to get atthe why and the how of things that underlie psychopathology and the relationship between earlier life experiences and adult mental health. The New School has a reputation for being progressive and oriented toward social justice in a way that was also compelling to me so I thought it would be a good fit in terms of my values as well.

RM: As you’ve explained, your doctoral research focused on how psychosocial influences, especially factors like trauma and social adversity, impact health. Can you say more about the link between our experiences in early childhood and overall health later in life?

SK: There was a landmark study conducted by V J Felliti about 30 years ago finding that experiencing childhood adversity…is predictive of a host of physical and also psychological difficulties in adulthood. My graduate research focused on how these experiences can contribute to physical problems or illness.

In the field of psychology now, the most commonly available treatments for people with chronic pain or psychosomatic conditions are based in cognitive-behavioral theory, and they focus primarily on accepting and managing pain. This approach views chronic pain as something that is lifelong and something to manage, and contrasts with the model that I have worked from, that views some types of chronic pain as being driven by the central nervous system and quite changeable. This approach is based on evidence that childhood experiences of attachment-disruption can lead to these chronic, repeated experiences of suppressing rather than experiencing one’s emotions and the evidence shows that emotional suppression is associated with symptoms. It’s a model that is more psychological or brain-based in terms of what produces and maintains pain, and so the course of treatment aims to increase insight for patients about the link between emotions and pain, and to experience rather than avoid emotions., including: The goal is to encourage recognition that the way that they’ve been managing emotions has a cost, and may not be the most adaptive strategy for their current context, and encourages them to adopt a different pattern where there is more openness to emotional experience.

RM: You’ve also done important work on stress and sexual victimization across different genders and cultural backgrounds. In what way should we approach traumatic experiences differently based on cultural and social context?

SK: The work that you’re referring to was conducted in a population of Arab American women.

In that study, we looked at whether a disclosure-based interview would have an effect on sexual health outcomes, such as sexual self-esteem and satisfaction.,. We found that it actually did have some benefits, and the women who participated reported that it wasa really important experience for them to feel like we could talk openly about sexual experiences, especially those that had never shared with anybody else.

We were also interested in how cultural factors impact Arab American women who had sexual victimization experiences. This was an exploratory study, which found that women who had more conflict between their identities as Arab and as American, or who felt like they couldn’t talk openly with the people in their life, were worse off in terms of psychological and physical health.  

We were interested in studying this population because there are very few studies that have included Arab Americans in general, and even fewer focused on women. This is important because there can be a tension between having sort of broad generalizations about what is healthy for people, or how experiences impact people, and that doesn’t consider these cultural or social group differences which might affect those relationships. That’s where more cross-cultural and cultural-focused research can help to identify cases in which a theory or a model might not apply and what might be particularly beneficial for a subgroup or minority population.

RM: What does your current research within the Trauma and Affective Psychophysiology Lab focus on?

SK: I’m currently working on a large project for which the data has already been collected, and I’m working towards analysis and publication. The data set is from an NIH-funded project on what is called Blunted and Discordant Affect (BADA).

For some background, most treatments for trauma and characterizations of trauma…are characterized mostly by hyperarousal [and hypervigilance] in terms of affect and physiology.

But, for people who have complex trauma with repeated exposures, that are attachment-based or happened in childhood, they tend to show up in clinical settings with a different presentation, characterized by blunted or discordant emotional responses. That might look like people not reacting when they perhaps should be to situations where there’s threat and shut-down instead, or there’s discordant reactions -a mismatch between the situation and their emotional reaction.

So, the project aimed to validate that this is a distinct subtype of trauma reactions, and to characterize this subtype in terms of magnitude and neural and physiological mechanisms. My piece involves looking at various forms of discordance, for example, how is someone’s physiology—what their body is telling us about their response–different or mismatched to what they’re saying is going on with them, or to their brain activity? Or how do people with trauma histories handle conflicting feelings in relationships, and how does having these conflicts impact physiology? Or  you might find verbal disfluencies, where someone is talking about an earlier relationship and switch into present tense or leave out key information as if you already know who you’re talking about, a sort of time discordance, as if the person is experiencing the situation now rather than relating to it as a coherent thing that happened in the past.

RM: You taught Research Methods in Fall 2022 for Psychology MA students. Could you tell us a bit about the class and your pedagogical approach?

SK: I’m working with Master’s students [and] this class is essentially their first experience developing and running a study from the ground up.

It’s a challenging class because you’re expected to be able to develop an idea for a study, collect data, and then have it analyzed and presented in a paper and a conference poster within the span of few months. At least half of the class is devoted to problem solving, strategizing about methodology and data collection, and talking about issues as they come up. The other side of it is lecture, where we’re talking about structure and organizing principles for experimental studies. It’s all quantitative.

I like for classes to feel very collaborative and non-hierarchical. I don’t want students to feel intimidated by the content or by it being their first experience. I want it to be all about learning, with the understanding that there’s going to be mistakes that happen, and that no questions are bad questions. I’m also trying to emphasize as much as possible peer-to-peer work where students are looking at one another’s work, developing the ability to critique one another’s work and get feedback in a way that’s professional and helpful. I’m hoping students come away feeling capable and excited about doing research.

Oksana Kis Joins NSSR as 2022-2023 Visiting Professor in Anthropology

The New School for Social Research is excited to welcome Oksana Kis as Visiting Professor in the Anthropology Department for the 2022-23 academic year.

Professor Kis is a feminist historian and anthropologist from Ukraine, head of the Department of Social Anthropology at the Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Lviv. She is also a President of the Ukrainian Association for Research in Women’s History, and a Co-founder and Vice President of the Ukrainian Oral History Association.

Kis sat down with Research Matters to discuss her long-standing connection to NSSR, her perspective on Gulag studies, new meta-narratives emerging from the war in Ukraine, and much more.

What was your path to becoming a Visiting Professor here at NSSR?

When Professor Jessica Pisano first contacted me and asked if I would be interested to come for a temporary possession of Visiting Professor of Anthropology, I didn’t know anybody from The New School in a professional context.

On the other hand, it was very symbolic. I knew Professor Ann Snitow, Emeritus Professor and founder of the university’s Gender Studies program, long ago before she passed away in 2019. I really admired her not only as a scholar and professor, but as a role model in terms of feminist activism.

Snitow was a famous activist beginning the late 70s, and she was among the few who actually tried to establish a dialogue between the American feminists and the East European post-socialist feminists who were trying to rediscover feminism for themselves. She was the leader of Network of East-West Women, a transnational organization that advocated for women’s rights and promoted women’s studies in the region. In that role, she supported a publication of a book that was the first-ever reader in feminist and gender studies in Ukraine, a translation of the classic works. Later, she worked to give us a small grant for a library. From this, we were able to purchase about 40 books at a time when internet access was not that widespread and there was a serious shortage of knowledge in gender studies. We had to somehow to catch up the Western academia. When I came back with a full suitcase of 60 pounds of books, <laughs>, everybody was so happy. So now, when I teach the course Women & Post-Socialist Transformation in this same university, I consider it a tribute to her memory.

Your work focus on the human element within political paradigms, which is often neglected in favor of the study of political infrastructure and systems. This is especially clear in your recent book, Survival as Victory: Ukrainian Women in the Gulag (2021). Could you comment on your position within the field of Gulag studies?

When I first approached the topic of women’s experience, I expected that somebody would have already written something at least about the Ukrainian experiences in the Gulag because it is such a painful sore in the history of the 20th century. It turned out that despite there being a number of memoirs published and several oral historical projects, nobody actually had summarized that experience of Ukrainians in general.

There are a couple different reasons why I focused mainly on human, and particularly women’s, experience. On the one hand, there is a huge body of works written about the repressive institution of the Gulag. It emphasizes over and over again how important it was, overshadowing the lives of people who are the prisoners. The Gulag aimed to erase them, and the historiographies erase them over again. It’s absolutely unfair. To counterbalance that, it was important to look not only at the suffering of those people, but particularly their survival strategies.

The history of Gulag studies tends to analyze mainly the experiences of Russian-speaking prisoners, because those stories are readily available . Historians of Stalinism and the USSR usually learn the Russian language and that leaves testimonies in any other languages outside their inquiry. Moreover, major memoirs by Russian survivors of the Gulag are translated into English. For me, it was important to show what is special about Ukrainians and about women in terms of making the history of political imprisonment in the Gulag more comprehensive and accurate. It was also important to remember the impact this period had on society because those people who manage to survive brought these experiences back, including their ideas, habits, and attitudes, which had long-term effects over the generations of their descendants.

Your research practice engages with texts of memoirs and personal interviews of Ukrainians. Do you have a sense of the meta-narratives that are emerging from the war in Ukraine today? Perhaps particularly for women in Ukraine, which is your focus?

I believe that there are core ideas already forming in the midst of this total mess and distress. What is important is that there will be many narratives of this war. Nowadays, we are aware that the experiences of the war are so different for different parts of the population. We have to appreciate and admit all the stories, the stories of pain and suffering, and the stories of glory and survival, and the stories of military valor. Yet, if you try to understand what is the universal among all those stories, I would say that they all contain the sentiment, “We are the people.”

Many diverse groups came to an awareness that despite all the differences among Ukrainians, Russian-speaking, and Ukrainian-speaking, people of different ethnic origin, people affiliated with different church branches like Orthodox or Catholic, they are united with the same set of values for which we are going to fight, to defend to the very end. This togetherness, this feeling of belonging to one nation based on the same set of values, this is important thing to remember. I would call this solidarity. Among the shared values are, importantly, the right to human dignity, democracy in terms of universal equality, and appreciation and tolerance to all the citizens. Also, obviously the freedom to define our future.

In terms of women’s experiences, it is absolutely amazing how women who previously had no experience of public activism…now feel a personal responsibility for their country. There is also a real sense that citizens are doing the same job in different ways, and every contribution is appreciated.

Could you speak about your work with the Ukrainian Association of Oral History which you co-founded? And the Ukrainian Association for Research in Women’s History where you serve as President? What is the current focus of these institutions today?

That’s a very important part of my life. I committed to development of both associations because after 30 years of independence, there is still no Women’s History, no Oral History, no Gender Studies, no Anthropology for that matter, in the official roster of academic subjects in Ukraine. These subjects officially don’t exist. It doesn’t mean that there are no scholars or no scholarship. There is tremendous research in those areas, but they are not properly institutionalized.

Both of these associations serve to promote institutionalization and to create a community for scholars who are working in those areas and who feel lonely and isolated within their universities and receive no support. We also try to establish some basics to create a framework for those areas and reintroduce the discipline into the Ukrainian academy, lest it become falsified.

More specifically, the Association of Oral History was formed to draw attention to the human experiences of the history of Ukraine. And to some extent, question the official memory politics in Ukraine, offering counter narratives of the history of the 20th century.

With Ukrainian Association for Research in Women’s History, it’s a more complicated story because for quite a long time and still today, it’s not taken seriously within academia. It became part of our mission to speak about women’s past outside of the pattern of being as a victim, which is very typical for the Ukrainian historical representation of women’s experience. Women are always portrayed as the biggest losers of all the historical tragedies, even when they are valorized as martyrs who sacrifice it themselves for the Ukrainian cause. Our association is trying to show the variety of women’s experiences and to emphasize specifically women’s agency in different developments. This is helpful and not only for the society at large, but specifically for women themselves to feel entitled to voice their demands and claims and consider themselves equal.

I’d love to discuss your Women & Post-Socialist Transformation undergraduate course at Lang. What was the trajectory of the course? How did you find the NSSR student body received this material?

In the past, I’ve taught the course at the graduate level for students specializing in this region. It was quite a challenge this time around because at least half of my students were freshmen. We first had to establish what is the Soviet Union, what is the Bolshevik emancipation project for women and how it evolved over the course of 70 years, and how the gender policies have changed, how women responded, and how women contributed to the development of the Soviet Union and to its disintegration after all.

For these students, it’s a discovery of a different reality. But on the other hand, since we take three countries, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, as case studies, we are not only dealing with the specific empirical material, but with broader theories and basic concepts that are relevant to their own lives, like gender segregation in the labor market.

I can see that students begin to reevaluate their own experience with their family, education, their gender-based socialization. We not only discuss scholarly texts but explore various materials, including feature movies, advertising, school textbooks, music videos, all of which tell the story of a people. Later in the semester, we focus on trafficking, prostitution, on drug abuse and alcohol abuse. Those are very difficult topics to deal with. But they are not only post-Soviet phenomena.

What can you tell us about the undergraduate Oral History course you are teaching in Spring 2023?

It will be a practice-oriented course for those who in their professional or scholarly career would be interested in using interview as a research method. This course will offer a view of best practices and necessary skills and tools. We will learn how to do an oral history project, how to properly design the project, how to conduct the interviews using different techniques dependent on the purpose, how to process the materials and make best use of those materials depending on the goal. Part of the course will be dedicated to theoretical debates in oral history, to issues related to the ethical and legal dimension of practicing oral history. We’ll speak about all kinds of challenges and shortcomings, but also the advantages of doing oral history to achieve different goals.

NSSR Welcomes Anthropologist Katharina Schramm as the 2022-2023 Heuss Professor

For the 2022-2023 academic year, The New School for Social Research is excited to welcome Prof. Dr. Katharina Schramm as the Distinguished Theodor Heuss Professor in the Anthropology department. She will give the annual Heuss Lecture on November 2; register here.

Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Bayreuth and Member of the Anthropology of Global Inequalities Working Group, Schramm sees her current research agenda as situated at the interface of political anthropology and critical race studies, science and technology studies (STS), and critical heritage studies. She has worked on diasporic memory and pan-African identity politics (African Homecoming, Left Coast Press 2010); violence and memorial landscapes (“Landscapes of violence”, special issue of History & Memory 2011); race and technologies of belonging in the European border regime (“Technologies of Belonging”, special issue of Science, Technology and Human Values 2014); race and the sciences of human origins, especially population genomics and biological anthropology (special section “Face and Race”, American Anthropologist 2020; “Race, Genealogy, and the Genomic Archive in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Social Analysis 2021) as well as on the multiple articulations of political subjectivities (special issue “Political Subjectivity in Times of Transformation”, Critical African Studies 2018).

The Heuss Professorship is a distinguished visiting professorship that brings a prominent German academic to NSSR each year to conduct research and teach, maintaining a decades-long bond between The New School and the German academic world.

Schramm talked with Matene Toure, NSSR Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism MA student, about her research interests, the state of anthropology today, and her upcoming Nov. 2 Heuss lecture “Fire Is Good to Think With: Protest as a Mode of Theorizing.”

Research Matters:

How did you learn about the Heuss Professorship opportunity? What intrigued you about teaching at The New School for Social Research?

Prof. Schramm:

Oh, that’s an interesting question (laughs). I learned about the professorship through my predecessor in anthropology, Richard Rottenburg, who was here I believe seven years ago. I knew he was teaching at NSSR and then later I was nominated for the professorship. I feel very honored to be able to be here and to have this opportunity not only to engage with and teach at The New School, but also to have the time for my own projects. Of course, the history of The New School is an interesting one, the kind of specific connection that The New School has had with German scholars in exile.

So there is the ghost of the past that is fascinating. But I also like the reach out between different disciplines: design, social sciences, music, etc. And I think for anthropologists, this is particularly exciting, because we are also experimenting on methodologies in transdisciplinary fields.

Research Matters:

What are your areas of focus within anthropology at the University of Bayreuth? You are part of a working group called Anthropology of Global Inequities. Can you explain more about that?

Prof. Schramm:

My own research interests have always been around questions of race and racism in a very broad sense. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve also worked very much at the interface between anthropology and science and technology studies (STS).

The anthropology of global inequalities is a group of PhD students and postdocs that I relate to in various capacities. The title of the group aligns with our shared interests in matters of inequalities on a global scale. We are particularly interested in forms of classifications that underlie hierarchization in multiple ways. This is heavily informed by feminist and postcolonial approaches in STS that look at the material-semiotic practices through which categories come about, but then also at the effects of what they do and how they can be undone. And I think we also have a shared interest in public anthropology in the sense that we also want our work to be relevant and to speak to current issues and problems.

Research Matters:

Your upcoming Heuss lecture, “Fire Is Good to Think With: Protest as a Mode of Theorizing,” interrogates the protests prompted by colonial practices entangled in education specifically in humanities and social sciences. Can you discuss what brought you to this topic?

Prof. Schramm:

The lecture builds on my research in South Africa, where I’ve been working for almost 15 years. My research in post-apartheid South Africa focused on the ways in which the sciences of human origins were used to contest apartheid racism, while at the same time being haunted by race in many ways. This goes along with a theoretical interest in epistemic practices and in the university as a contested space of knowledge production. In my lecture, I want to explore how to think differently about the connection between activism and scholarship and how we can view protest as a form of knowledge production in its own right.

One of the important insights from STS has been an approach to knowledge not in a hierarchy, but in a symmetrical way, and post-colonial STS has put a heavy focus on that. STS has also helped us to think about messiness in new ways, for example through the notion of “fire objects” that engage us in multiple, and often contradictory, relations. In my lecture, I will extend this discussion to the realm of political protest within the university. During the protests, fire became literally a point of contestation about the modes of conduct and the means of critique. I want to think with fire because it takes us out of the comfort zone of purely academic knowledge production.

Research Matters:

At Eugene Lang this fall, you are teaching a course called Race in Science/Tech Studies. How has anthropology perpetuated white supremacist ideologies through race science? How can anthropology also work towards debunking racism?

Prof. Schramm:

Big question. I think anthropology is really an interesting field in that sense because anthropology is a colonial science, it grew with colonialism. It has contributed to the “making of the other” while at the same time voices within anthropology have always questioned these narratives. Your question also relates to the title of my lecture, which might make you think of Ryan Jobson’s recent demand to let anthropology burn which has caused a huge stir in U.S. anthropology.

He made an important point in demanding more from anthropology than to rely on its anti-racist, liberal self-understanding. I think this is a very interesting moment for the discipline that also plays out differently in different contexts in Germany, the U.S., Brazil or South Africa. But I do think that anthropology has interesting means through its methodologies and its openness to reinvent itself, to respond to these challenges.

In the class that I’m teaching this term, we look at some of the ways in which race has been conceptualized and discussed within STS and anthropology. We are specifically interested in the ways in which race is produced and relationally articulated in scientific practices and material assemblages, for example in the fields of genomics, forensics or biological anthropology. In these STS studies, race is understood as a troubling problem, a material semiotic object, and a matter of concern that demands our attention.

Research Matters:

This spring at NSSR, you will teach a course on the Methodologies of Care. Is there more you can share about that right now?

Prof. Schramm:

What I’m interested in is how we can rethink ethnography in this moment when anthropology is under fire? What are different forms of engagement in academia and activism, maybe in the arts as well, and how can we integrate these into our practice? How can we think about methodologies that go beyond the gaze and beyond discourse? I will consider discussions about the senses and around affect to illuminate this.

The care in the methodologies of care comes from discussions that we’ve had with colleagues on how to translate demands or discussions around decoloniality into very concrete empirical research practices. Like fire, care is good to think with, because it’s contradictory. Care also means to cultivate attentiveness. I look forward to exploring this together with the students who will hopefully bring in their own questions and concerns from their various projects.