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Jaak Tomberg won Literature Endowment Annual Award

Jaak Tomberg won Literature Endowment Annual Award

Jaak Tomberg, senior researcher of The Research Group of Contemporary Estonian Culture and assistant professor of contemporary literature of the University of Tartu won Estonian Literature Endowment’s Annual Award in the essay category for his monograph How to Fulfil a Wish. Realism, Science Fiction, and the Utopian Potential (2023)

“I wanted to disconfirm the widely-held and deeply-rooted belief that utopian dreaming ends badly. On the contrary: it ends badly when we do not dream in utopian way,” Jaak said in his short interview for the Estonian National Broadcast.

Indrek Ojam will defend his doctoral thesis “The Poetics of Scene and Estonian Modernist Novel”

Indrek Ojam will defend his doctoral thesis “The Poetics of Scene and Estonian Modernist Novel”

Member of the research group of contemporary Estonian culture and doctoral student of the University of Tartu Indrek Ojam will defended his doctoral thesis “The Poetics of Scene and Estonian Modernist Novel” in Tartu, Ülikooli 16-109, on January 18, 2024, 15.30.

Supervisor of the thesis:
Jaak Tomberg, assistant professor, University of Tartu

Opponents:
Dr. Epp Annus, Tallinn University
Dr. Cornelius Hasselblatt, University of Gröningen

The thesis is available here.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Transitions. Annual conference of Science Fiction Research Association, 2024

CALL FOR PAPERS: Transitions. Annual conference of Science Fiction Research Association, 2024

When things are changing too quickly, you don’t have any place to stand from which to imagine a very elaborate future.” – William Gibson

“Science Fiction is the literature of change,” Veronica Hollinger memorably noted, “but change is exactly what now defines the present. It no longer guarantees the future as the site of meaningful difference.” Indeed, Heraclitus’ famous statement that change is the only constant in life can nowadays be felt on a myriad of levels and scales, and with a special kind of artificially enhanced intensity. Indeed, it looks like what we’ve come to expect from the future is no longer a linear progression towards – or a gradual fulfillment of – some ideals, but simply more and more unprecedented change. Accelerated technological development, together with large geopolitical conflicts and multiple crises on a global scale have generated a permanent atmosphere of instability and unpredictability, resulting in a strong sense of collective cognitive vertigo. In parallel, there’s a strong yearning for utopian change, equally unsettling in its apparent unimaginability and unattainability, and evidence of a deeper standstill of capitalist realism lurking underneath the surface acceleration. How to grapple with and make sense of all this change? How to reduce the vertigo to be able to enact real change? One possible way, suggested by SF as a form, is to take Heraclitus seriously and focus on the moments and processes of change itself: that is, on transitions.

SF has long been a powerful medium for representing, envisioning, exploring, and critically reflecting upon transitions of all kinds: from mind-bending technological leaps to radical societal upheavals, from personal transformations to global paradigm shifts. Some transitions are visible and explicit, others implicit and recognized in retrospect. Some are planned or desired, others accidental or enforced. And multiple transitions can be related to each other in very complex ways. The genre has developed its own distinct poetic, representational and metaphorical capabilities to make our real-life transitions visible, to reflect upon and make sense of them. But transitions can also happen to science fiction as it traverses history, interacts with other forms, and shifts its position in the contemporary genre system: from one ideological or discursive formation to another, from national to global arena, from genre to mainstream, and so on.

Thus, “Transitions” seeks to discuss all kinds of transitions as the thematic, narrative, formal, historical, philosophical driving force behind SF: both how SF envisions transitions, and how the representation of transitions critically and metaphorically reflects upon our own. We invite papers on all forms and genres of science fiction in relation to transitions, including but not limited to literature, music, film, games, design, and art. We strive for a diversity of voices and perspectives from any and all disciplines and career stages. While papers on any subject in SF are welcome, we especially encourage topics that resonate with the overall conference theme, including but not limited to SF and:

  • Technological Evolution: how does SF frame the transitions brought about by technological innovations? What impact do these transitions have on society, ethics, and human identity?
  • Cultural Shifts: how does SF reflect upon and influences cultural transitions, from changing norms and values to shifts in representation, diversity, and inclusion (of e.g., BIPOCs/BAMEs, LGBTQIA2S+ peoples).
  • Political and Social Revolutions: the representation of revolutions, political transitions, and social movements (especially, but not only migrants and diasporic communities, working-class and other groups seeking economic justice) in science fiction narratives. 
  • Temporal and Spatial Transitions: time travel, alternate histories, parallel universes, and spatial shifts in science fiction.
  • Bodies and Identities: transitions in bodily forms, genders, identities, and abilities, including cyborgs, posthumans and non-human entities, uncanny bodies.
  • Planetary and Environmental Changes: SF’s engagement with ecological transitions, climate change, terraforming, and the portrayal of life on evolving worlds. 
  • Futuristic Transitions: utopian and dystopian futures, (post)apocalyptic transitions, alien contact, and integration.
  • Global Market Transitions:  from a niche genre to the globally dominant mass cultural genre, including the expansion and demographic shifts of its writers, readers, producers, and markets. 
  • Poetics of Transition: narrative strategies to represent transitions in SF, the poetics of transitional moments.
  • Narrative and Genre Evolution: how do SF’s genres, styles, and storytelling techniques transition over time, and how these changes reflect societal and cultural dynamics.
  • Transitions between Media and Platforms: the shifts in science fiction across different media, such as literature, film, television, comics, video games, and emerging digital platforms.
  • Changes in SF studies and teaching.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Anindita Banerjee (Cornell University), Bogi Takács (The University of Kansas), Meelis Friedenthal (University of Tartu)

Besides proposals for individual presentations and preformed panels, non-traditional formats (roundtable, artistic research, participatory formats, etc.) are welcome. For individual presentations, we ask for an abstract of 300 words and a short bio (150 words). For preformed panels we request a proposal (single file) that includes a 300-word summary of the panel topic, abstracts of 200 words for each contribution, and bio notes (150 words) for all participants.

 Please send all submissions to sfra2024@ut.ee by November 24, 2023

We want to create active discussions during and between panels, and thus strongly encourage an onsite presence. Nevertheless, hybrid access and participation will be available in all panels.

The SFRA awards a limited number of travel grants of up to $500 (US) for SFRA members attending the conference in person. For more information on these grants, please click here

All participants must be members of the Science Fiction Research Association and pay the conference registration fee.

See homepage of the conference for more information.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Cultural Heterologies and Democracy II. Transitions and Transformations in Post-Socialist Cultures in the 1980s and 1990s
Hanno Soans, 'Backdoor'. Performance at the monument to an Unknown Soldier in Tallinn. 20 Oct, 1998. Image by Hanno Soans

CALL FOR PAPERS: Cultural Heterologies and Democracy II. Transitions and Transformations in Post-Socialist Cultures in the 1980s and 1990s

Extended deadline: Fenruary 15, 2024

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Marju Lauristin (professor emeritus, University of Tartu, Estonia)
Dorota Kołodziejczyk (University of Wrocław, Poland)
Gulnaz Sharafutdinova (King’s College London, UK)

The 1980s and 1990s were marked by events around the world that radically changed the political order, people’s beliefs and attitudes, and the entire cultural and intellectual orientation of much of the globe. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War stand out as the most important changes, in the shadow of which the events in Yugoslavia and important changes elsewhere are often overlooked by European commentators. These events, taken as a whole, have been seen as part of broader processes of democratization, even as, at the same time, this period was also marked by outbreaks of extreme nationalism and radical religious ferment.

The planned conference invites participants to reflect on the following questions:
– In what ways does democracy manifest itself in the culture of the transitional period of the 1990s?
– What are the common features and differences of the transition period in different post-socialist countries?
– What different theoretical frameworks can be used to analyze the culture of this period?
– What are the new forms of cultural negotiation between different cultural traditions and elements?
– How might we describe the way cultural imaginaries and experiences of temporality have changed?
– Which transgressive tendencies arose to challenge the narrative of imaginary unity between different cultural spheres?
– How is one to describe the dynamic of the forces at play in the transition between the mentality of social collectivism and the new liberal individualism?
– How, if at all, has the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 altered understandings of the transition period and its narratives?

The conference “Cultural heterologies and democracy II” will take place at the Estonian Academy of Arts (Põhja puiestee 7, Tallinn, Estonia).

To submit your proposal (250 words max.) for 20-minute presentations, along with a short biographical information, please use the Oxford Abstracts submission link: https://app.oxfordabstracts.com/stages/6299/submitter (first-time users will be asked to register with Oxford Abstracts).

Extended deadline for submissions: February 15, 2024
Notification of acceptance: March 1, 2024
The conference will be held in English

Conference fee is 100 € for waged academics and 50€ for students and the unwaged. Participation is free for Ukrainians. 

Organizing Committee
Virve Sarapik, Estonian Academy of Arts
Epp Annus, Tallinn University
Luule Epner, Tallinn University
Regina-Nino Mion, Estonian Academy of Arts
Jaak Tomberg, University of Tartu
Piret Viires, Tallinn University

For further information, please contact us at regina-nino.mion@artun.ee (Regina-Nino Mion).

The conference is being organized by the Research Group of Contemporary Estonian Culture, which unites scholars from the Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn University and the University of Tartu. The research is funded by the project PRG636 “Patterns of Development in Estonian Culture of the Transition Period (1986–1998).”

Taavi Remmel defended his doctoral thesis “Fiction in the Impact Field of Quantum Theory”

Taavi Remmel defended his doctoral thesis “Fiction in the Impact Field of Quantum Theory”

Member of the research group of contemporary Estonian culture and doctoral student of the Tallinn University Taavi Remmel defended his doctoral thesis “Fiction in the Impact Field of Quantum Theory”.

Supervisor of the thesis:
Piret Viires, professor, Tallinn University

Opponents:
Tiina Ann Kirss, senior researcher, University of Tartu
Piret Kuusk, assistant professor, University of Tartu

The thesis is available here.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Cultural heterologies and democracy. Culture in the Baltic countries in the 1990s.
View from Viinistu during our research group's seminar in summer 2020. Photo: Mari Laaniste

CALL FOR PAPERS: Cultural heterologies and democracy. Culture in the Baltic countries in the 1990s.

NB! Deadline for abstracts extended until May 4th, 2021.

The 1990s in the post-Soviet countries were characterised by a particular sense of density and polyarchy. This was emphasised by the emergence and adoption of new ways of thinking, the concentration of time and the intensification of cultural activity, the testing of limits and radical possibilities, and the enmeshing of political and cultural practices. Although at first sight similar, these processes unfolded with significant local differences. The events setting off or determining the course of these processes did not occur entirely simultaneously and had different outlets; they were brought about by various historical developments, and cultural conditions and interests. Several processes started in the second half of the 1980s or even earlier. Among the cultural spheres – theatre, visual arts, literature, music and the humanities – these processes intensified and established social connections differently. On closer inspection, the imaginary unity of time and space in the 1990s was fractured by singularities and differences. A set of politically significant turning points, institutional configurations and art events, artworks and texts that resonated outside the cultural sphere all played a role. The intensity of such events is precisely what erodes a coherent view of the 1990s.

The planned seminar invites participants to reflect on:
– what linked and what distinguished the cultural politics in the 1990s in the Baltic countries; – what methods could be used to examine the post-Soviet culture of the 1990s;
– what the transgressive tendencies were that undercut the fabric of the imaginary unity between different cultural spheres.

As one of the starting points, we propose the concept of the democratisation of the aesthetic field. The democracy of the aesthetic field conditions what is possible (visible, expressible and doable) within a new cultural situation and shapes who determines the meanings in cultural communication. This allows us to consider various aesthetic discrepancies – discordances, interferences and conflicts between different elements – as parts of the broader politics of aesthetics within the same dynamic cultural situation. The process of democratisation also involved a new organisation of the relations between the private and public spheres. Concurrently, the seminar focuses on individual events and works which resonated beyond the cultural sphere, exposing tensions and rifts in society, and prompting public discussions or even animosity towards culture. The capacity of such cultural acts and events to transfigure social reality may have been unintentional but could have also been motivated by a certain utopian intention, inevitably raising the question of the democratic position of culture in contemporary society.

The seminar “Cultural heterologies and democracy” will take place in Viinistu, in northern Estonia, on 17–19 August 2021. The presentations will last 20 minutes. Please notify us of your desire to participate and submit your abstract by May 4th at the latest by contacting mari.laaniste@artun.ee or virve.sarapik@artun.ee.

Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words in length. Participation is free and the organisers will provide accommodation and meals in Viinistu (at the Viinistu hotel and conference centre, https://viinistu.ee/?lang=en). Participation will be confirmed in early May 2021.

The seminar is being organised by the Research Group of Contemporary Estonian Culture, which unites scholars from the Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn University and the University of Tartu. The research is funded by the project PRG636 “Patterns of Development in Estonian Culture of the Transition Period (1986–1998).”

Epp Annus received the Estonian National Research Award

Epp Annus received the Estonian National Research Award

On February 11th, Estonian government announced the receivers of National Research Awards, including Epp Annus, senior researcher of the Research Group of Contemporary Estonian Culture. Epp got this award for her work on Soviet colonialism.

In the words of the judging panel: “Epp Annus has created and developed the concept of Soviet colonialism and made it part of academic research of culture, society and philosophy. Soviet colonialism means suppression of a sovereign country by a foreign power under the cloak of ideology and the colonists’ attempt to transform the native population into “soviet citizens” convenient to the regime. By this concept Epp Annus creates the new paradigm of Estonia’s recent history, emphasizing colonialism instead of occupation, tying it to sovietization and extensive reconfiguring of peoples’ mindset.”

In English, Epp has written a monograph about Soviet colonialism “Soviet Postcolonial Studies. A View from the Western Borderlands” (Routledge, 2018) and edited the article collection “Coloniality, Nationality, Modernity. A Postcolonial View on Baltic Cultures under Soviet Rule” (Routledge, 2018) and a special issue of the Journal of Baltic Studies, “Between Arts and Politics: A Postcolonial View on Baltic Cultures of the Soviet era” (2016). She has also written a monograph in Estonian “Sotskolonialism Eesti NSV-s: võim, kultuur, argielu” (‘Soviet Colonialism in the Estonian SSR: Power, Culture, Everyday Life’, 2019) and edited the article collections “Mitmele isandale loodud kunst. Sotskolonialism ja Eesti” (‘Art for Different Lords. Soviet Colonialism and Estonia’, 2020) and “Minu lapsepõlvekodu oli Eesti NSV-s: humanitaarid meenutavad” (‘My Childhood Home Was in the ESSR. Memories of Estonian Literary Scholars’, 2019), and also the special issue of the journal Methis, “Sotskolonialism Eesti NSV-s: kultuurist argiilmani” (‘Soviet Colonialism in the ESSR: From Culture to Everyday Life’, 2017).

Congratulations, Epp!