At: 09/06/2023 3:00pm, in cooperation with: UK Arts & Humanities Research Council


Ioana Luca
Ute Hirsekorn
Sofia Poulia

dMSA Series of Webinars: Post-Socialist Subjectivities in Comparative Perspective, hosted by: Professor Sara Jones

Join us for the dMSA series of Webinars: Post-Socialism, Migration and Memory in Britain and Beyond 

What happens to memories of state-socialism and of post-communist transition when its carriers move across borders? How do individuals and communities grapple with the legacies of regimes in host societies with different kinds of legacies? As a culmination point of the research project “Post-Socialist Britain?: Memory, Representation and Political Identity amongst German, Polish and Ukrainian Immigrants in the UK (, funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council and led by Professor Sara Jones (University of Birmingham), we are organising a series of virtual webinars in May and June 2023.


Ioana Luca is Professor in the Department of English at National Taiwan Normal University. She has published on life writing, American literature, memory studies and transnational American studies. Her publications include articles in Social Text, Rethinking History, Prose Studies, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, Slavic and East European Journal, Journal of American Studies, and chapters in several edited volumes, including Cultures of Mobility and Alterity: Crossing the Balkans and Beyond (2022) and Remembering Transitions (2023). She also coedited several special issues, most recently Postsocialist Literatures in the US in Twentieth Century Literature (2019) and The Cultures of Global Post/socialisms in Comparative Literature Studies (with Claudia Sadowski-Smith, 2022).

Ute Hirsekorn is Assistant Professor of German Studies at the University of Nottingham. She took her MA in English and American Studies at the University of Jena, her MA in International Relations and her PhD in German Studies at the University of Nottingham. She has worked on the autobiographical texts of former East German elites, and her current project looks at graduates of the Bogensee College of the GDR’s Free German Youth. Relevant publications include “Thought Patterns and Explanatory Strategies in the Life Writing of High Ranking GDR Party Officials after the Wende”, and forthcoming in 2023 “Perpetrator Testimony” (in co-authorship with Professor Sue Vice, University of Sheffield) in the Palgrave “Handbook of Testimony and Culture” (eds Sara Jones and Roger Woods).

Sofia Poulia is an early-stage researcher in the field of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Having a BA in Media and Communication (University of Athens, Greece), she completed in December 2021 her degree of MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology at University College London. Sofia has been engaged in field research in Southeastern Europe since 2017. Currently, her research interests focus on post-conflict subjectification processes in the city of Istočno Sarajevo, contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Diasporic Frames of Remembering Post/Socialism in US Culture: Global Intersections – Ioana Luca 

Taking my cue from the CFP, I focus on post/socialist “travelling memory” beyond Britain, namely the US. I begin by foregrounding the imbrication of post-socialist memories against the post-Cold War American context, continue by zooming in on life writing by postsocialist diasporic writers (Aleksandar Hemon, Gary Shteyngart, and Julia Alekseyeva), and then explore mnemonic convergences between the postsocialist easts. To tease out the significance of solidarities and mis/alliances occurring when socialist pasts and postsocialist transitions meet in US culture, I conclude by suggesting dialogical intersections with postsocialist diasporic writers from the Global South in the US.

While approaches toward the socialist past and its aftermath encompass varied, constantly evolving perspectives, it is fair to say that the US context represents a very dramatic and embattled landscape, despite the lack of a socialist past. As recent elections have consistently demonstrated, ‘socialism’ is frequently weaponized. On the other hand, US surveys and media show its increasing attractiveness for the younger generations, with millennials the most likely to embrace it. Concurrently, numerous immigrants from the former socialist countries in Europe and the Global South voted for Trump as a rejection of anything that might recall the past in their native countries (Senderovich, Nguyen).

My paper examines how three writers from different generations and countries record and chart their memories in US culture via autobiographical writing, and how such memories become a source of activism and political writing. I am also interested in the intersections between memories of postsocialist easts as well as the ways multilayered (US) Cold War pasts are brought together and activated. This comparative analysis allows me to discover how distinct postsocialist structures of feeling in the (former) communist easts speak to each other, and how their encounters reveal complex subjectivities, overlaid memories, and complex forms of critique of the global scene. Such discussion, I show, complicates the East West relationships and highlights relationalities between different postsocialist easts and their memories.

“Comrade, where are you today?” Post-Socialist perspectives of East Germans in today’s united Germany Ute Hirsekorn

Based on my project about life-story interviews of a cohort of lower-ranking FDJ functionaries (Freie Deutsche Jugend, the communist youth organisation of the GDR) who were defined by commitment to the GDR regime I will explore reflections on themes (e.g. motivation vs. actual experience of career) during the GDR and transition into united Germany with new life and career choices, asking to what extent GDR aspirations and past experiences were (re)shaped in self-reflections in the environment of united Germany. I argue, not unlike in the case of post-socialist Britain, to view Germany in the light of post-socialism and with the sense that “postsocialism did not simply follow on from socialism, and socialism did not simply go away” (Dominic Martin, 2021). I will demonstrate how GDR and post-GDR experiences have shaped individuals’ outlook on life as well as on memory of the past, e.g. by highlighting tensions and contradictions in self narratives, neither strictly adhering to ‘old’ socialist values nor fully embracing neoliberal economic and societal values of today’s Germany, thus carving out a post-socialist perspective on Germany through memory transitions. Drawing on theories from Oral History, Autobiographical and Collective Memory, Cultural Repertoire and post-socialism my research determines how among once regime-loyal groups one finds a range of strategies for processing the past and the role it takes when adapting to and assessing the present. I show how through multidimensional critical and ethical analysis mentalities, behaviours and coping strategies reveal a deeper understanding of the transition of memory and arrival of East Germans in today’s Germany.

“Post-Yugoslav diasporic subjectivities: The ambiguities and complexities of belonging among Bosnian families in London” – Sofia Poulia 

This Social Anthropology article contains an ethnographic account of the subjective transnational experience in the aftermaths of the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. More specifically, by focusing on three Bosnian families in London, including two-generation participants, the study discusses the multiple and complex kinds of belonging emerging within the transnational field.

When it comes to the first generation, the narratives of the participants are colored by a distinct historicity related to the experience of war and state collapse. Because of their attachment to a “lost home”, they find themselves in a state of “in-betweenness” which shapes them as transnational subjects. Concurrently, the traumatic memories which the members of their generation share leads to the formation of a post-Yugoslav transnational diaspora. On the other hand, the British-born participants perceive in a more positive way their ambiguous subjective positionings, as they construct flexible self-perceptions. The negotiation of their family stories, as well as of the historical events that marked them, is crucial in shaping how they interpret the past, experience the present and imagine their future, illustrating that memory is co-produced within the plural “we-subject” of the family.

The findings show that the participants’ self-perceptions are shaped through diverse processes of identification, where memory and intimate relationships play a prominent role and relegate to second place “objective” factors, such as citizenship and ethnicity categories. In this framework, this research suggests that belonging and “home” are non-static conceptions whose meaning is articulated within specific socio-historical contexts, but nonetheless dependent upon the diverse subjective experience.