Imperial Legacies, Postsocialist Contexts

Neda Atanasoski
Feminist Studies
UC Santa Cruz

Kalindi Vora
Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies
UC Davis


Donald Donham
UC Davis

Dace Dzenovska
Anthropology of Migration
University of Oxford

Fatima El-Tayeb
Ethnic Studies and Literature
UC San Diego

Julia Elyachar
UC Irvine

Ebru Erdem-Akçay
Political Science
UC Riverside

Julietta Hua
Women and Gender Studies
San Francisco State University

Xiao Liu
East Asian Languages and Cultures
UC Berkeley

Shu-mei Shih
Asian Languages and Cultures, Comparative Literature
UC Los Angeles

Imperial Legacies, Postsocialist Contexts addressed the theoretical, temporal, and spatial intersections of postcoloniality and postsocialism with the goal of arriving at a novel approach to race, gender, and sexuality in present-day geopolitics. As a signifier of economic and social transformation and transition, the “post” of postcolonialism and postsocialism has signaled the global reordering of governmental infrastructures and life-worlds. Theorizations of postcoloniality and postsocialism have thus sought to grapple not just with the decline of existing power relations, but with the emergence of new political and cultural formations and circuits of bodies and capital. Through our focus on multiple, contradictory, and layered historical memories and unforeseen correspondences encompassed by the theoretical intersections of postcolonialism and postsocialism, this group built upon and moved beyond the theoretical languages offered by critics of neoliberalism as the umbrella term to describe the contemporary moment. Nations of the global south usually described as postcolonial are not generally analyzed through the rubrics initiated by postsocialist theory, and Central and Eastern European nations and China are not for the most part regarded as decolonizing. However, the seminar centered on the junctures, as well as dissonances, between the postcolonial and the postsocialist as theoretical ground in order to grapple with emergent modes of racialization, new forms of gendered and racialized value and labor, and recent debates about biopolitical ethics and morality that have coalesced around sexual, gendered, and religious identities in the absence of socialism as the marker of an ethical “limit” to capitalist exploitation. Our group engaged not simply in comparative work, juxtaposing particular postcolonial or postsocialist sites, but also decentered theories of neoliberalism by reevaluating historical complexities and unlikely global routings of desire and dominance, processes of displacement and belonging, and languages of freedom and rights. As such, derived a distinct transnational and intersectional analytic based on the collaboration of scholars from a variety of disciplinary, geographical, and historical specializations.