Current Projects

A New Peasant Question: Epistemic Violence and Material Dispossession in the Yugoslav Region
Manuscript in progress

A New Peasant Question exposes how the invalidation of peasant knowledge over the past two hundred years has covered over the violent dispossession and exploitation of peasant populations in the Yugoslav region. This research builds on previous work in folklore, anthropology, and performance studies, which has problematized the colonial investments of anthropology and the racism undergirding white modern artists’ infatuation with the visual cultures of colonized peoples. My book extends this line of analysis to representations of Yugoslav peasants and their cultural practices (most commonly referred to as “folklore”). I consider how and why peasants in the Yugoslav region came to be widely seen as backwards, superstitious, and obstinate. To understand this process and its consequences, I examine ethnographic photography, peasant painting, nationalist folklore, performance and video art, and contemporary village healing practices. Combining visual and discourse analysis with ethnographic and archival research methods, this book traces the changing representations of peasants’ relationships to land in the Yugoslav region from the turn of the nineteenth century to the present. As the Yugoslav region currently witnesses some of the worst air quality in the world, an unresolved waste management crisis, and the damming of the last “wild rivers” in Europe, the enduring contradictions of nineteenth and twentieth-century responses to the Peasant Question provoke us to both think critically about the peasant’s historical trajectory in the region and also find opportunities for actualizing alternative horizons.
Revolution After Revolution: Global Postsocialist Performance and Video Art
Manuscript in progress

I define global postsocialism as a spatial, temporal, and social designation of life lived in relationship to past socialist and communist experiments around the world. While “postsocialism” most commonly refers to post-1989 Eastern Europe and Eurasia, Revolution After Revolution de-naturalizes Europe as the spatial center of postsocialist unfolding. By the infamous date of 1989, a global wave of state socialist collapse was already underway, which extended across Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe (the earliest being Chile in 1983, followed by Sudan in 1985). In addition to the collapsed Second World, “postsocialism” also denotes contemporary states, such as China and Cuba, whose integration into the capitalist world economy contradicts the self-defined politics of the ruling Communist Party (Dirlik 1989). Postsocialist Chinese artists, Cuban artists, and many others are pivotal to understanding the aesthetic and political projects of artists living in the postsocialist world.

Postsocialist artists advance a unique aesthetic and political perspective in their work. Regardless of how one feels about the successes and failures of socialism as a global political project, the perspectives of postsocialist artists are particularly valuable insofar as they materially connect radical theory, experience, and practice. It is extremely difficult to imagine a total transformation of society if one has no historical examples to draw upon. Revolutionary momentum depends upon the remembering of histories of struggle. Consequently, the work of postsocialist artists has been to resuscitate the material histories, knowledges, practices, and memories of socialist experience. By recuperating the legacies of antifascism, anticolonialism, socialist feminism, and anticapitalism, postsocialist artists are cultivating a repertoire with which to construct a future beyond the neoliberal catastrophe of our present.