I specialize in the history of modern Russia and the Soviet Union, with particular interest in Soviet culture, society, and their international context. Currently, I am completing my first book, a comprehensive history of the Soviet opening to the West during the 1950s and 1960s. This project brings together the ideas that justified cultural exchange and the diplomatic negotiations that made it possible, the secrets of museum storage rooms and the publicity of radio broadcasts, lavish international film festivals and backwater countryside screenings, enormous print runs and home-made books, state-sponsored travel and emigration. I analyze the reception of Western texts, paintings, cinema, and melodies, following them as they spread to the remotest corners of the Soviet Union. Interpreting the significance that these imports acquired, I highlight translation – as a mechanism of transfer, a process of habituation, and a metaphor for cultural interaction. The book examines what happened in this encounter to entrenched ideas of class morality and cultural supremacy, familiar ways of looking at paintings, as well as the established languages of literature and cinema.
Future projects include Stalinist culture through the prism of the tango and Russia's port cities, littoral subsystems, and maritime engagements over the past three hundred years.
Before coming to the University of Chicago, I taught at New York University.