William Nickell is a cultural historian specializing in mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century Russia, with particular interest in the 1840s, turn-of-the century, and 1930s-40s. Before joining the University of Chicago he was the Gary Licker Research Chair at U.C. Santa Cruz. His research focuses on media studies and cultural production, with close attention to the effects of large-scale social, economic and technical change. He also publishes extensively on Tolstoy, including a forthcoming companion to War and Peace. His first book, The Death of Tolstoy: Russia on the Eve, Astapovo Station, 1910, received honorable mention for the MLA’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures.
He works closely with students to construct digital media and installations, including the Soviet Apartment Project (Kommunalka) and the Soviet House of Rest. In 2013-14 he will be working on a new project relating to Sochi, documenting its transformation from a model Soviet city into an elite resort and Olympic site. The project will include an installation in Chicago and Los Angeles and an accompanying book. It will also actively involve University of Chicago students, who will collect documents and oral histories, assist with the installation and participate in its events (recreating the atmosphere of a Soviet-era resort), and develop a digital map of the city tracing its various stages of development.
He also runs a film series featuring the cinema of Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Open to the campus community, it is organized in cooperation with students, and is intended to introduce new perspectives, hone interpretive skills, and stimulate research.