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CREES Noon Lecture. “From Gentry Estates to Urban Apartments: Temporality and Domesticity at Russia’s Fin de Siècle.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

This talk reveals how domestic space embodies modern concepts of time. In particular, it highlights how, in a period of tremendous upheaval, Russians embraced notions of the home that contained new ideas about the flow of historical time. Domestic aesthetics—whether in texts or objects—reflected overlapping understandings of past, present, and future as many in the modern age embraced a new time consciousness. By peering into the windows of gentry estates (nostalgia and past) and urban apartments (efficiency and present), this paper explores modern temporality and its reverberations within representations of domestic spaces and objects at Russia’s fin de siècle.

As populations across Europe and the United States were undergoing processes of modernization at various speeds, including the spread of mass consumer and political society and the rise of new technologies, they developed a new time awareness that embraced mechanized, standardized clock time, on the one hand, and more subjective notions of reversibility and duration, on the other. Ideas about the home, like time itself, were in flux at the turn of the century. Not only were many people actually moving into new homes as rural life gave way to urban living, they were also influenced by new domestic ideologies and expectations. Yet, the past was not easily forgotten. Domestic interiors, as represented in portraits and prescriptions, contained nostalgic desires for a time long past, even as some urbanites embraced hygienic norms of the present. Desires for past, present, and future were all manifest within the domestic interior.

Rebecca Friedman is an associate professor of history and Director of European Studies and the EU Center of Excellence at Florida International University in Miami. Her research began with a monograph (2005) and co-edited collection (2002) on Russian masculinities in the 19th and 20th centuries. She has also co-edited the volume European Identity and Culture: Narratives of Transnational Belonging (2012) and published on childhood in Russia. Her latest work, a monographic study entitled Time at Home, highlights how new understandings of historical time were manifest within representations of domesticity at the fin de siècle. The project begins in the 1890s and ends in the 1930s, and travels from nostalgic estate life of the past, through hygienic and efficient urban apartments of the present, and to the utopian dreams of communal apartments in the future.

This lecture is part of the series, "Material Culture and Social Change in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia." What is the role of material culture in defining national identity in everyday practices and in solidifying or fostering resistance to the state’s control of that definition? From home décor, housing projects, clothing, broken stones, graffiti, or visual arts, participants in this series highlight the importance of objects and “things” in the making of social life and politics and their transformation.

Rebecca Friedman, associate professor of history, Florida International University