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Charisma, Camp, or Kitsch? Gender Performativity in Putin’s Russia

Monday, January 28, 2019 at 4 p.m.
175 Lillis Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Since his rise to power in 1999, Vladimir Putin has crafted a public persona whose appeal relies on a clearly constructed larger-than-life masculinity. Perceived by some as the return of charismatic leadership to post-Soviet Russia and by others as pure camp, Putin’s masculinity functions as the cornerstone of a gender order that paradoxically seeks to naturalize the binary opposition between male and female through artifice and exaggeration. This talk investigates the modes of gender performance that have become available due to Putin’s own performance of hypermasculinity and been propagated in Russia’s popular culture. Once we understand the relationship among the different modes of gender performativity circulating in the Russian media—from the seemingly universal charisma, camp, and kitsch, to Russia’s own stiob, poshlost’, glamur, and travesti—we can recognize the biopolitical stakes of Putinism’s preference for style over substance.

Julie A. Cassiday is the Willcox B. and Harriet M. Adsit Professor of Russian at Williams College, where she is a member of the Department of German and Russian and the Program in Comparative Literature. She is author of The Enemy on Trial: Early Soviet Courts on Stage and Screen (Northern Illinois University Press, 2000) and co-edited Russian Performances: Word, Object, Action (Wisconsin University Press, 2018) with Julie Buckler and Boris Wolfson. Her research explores a wide variety of performance in Russian culture, and she is currently writing a monograph provisionally titled Russian Style! Performing Gender in Putin’s Russia.