Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Dr. Maria Katharina Wiedlack


A New Cold War: US-Identity, Western Values, and Russian Vulnerable Bodies

Funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers

1. February 2019 – 30. September 2019 at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


The intersectional discourse analysis investigates US-American discourses around Russia, its citizens and the construction of (national) cultural values, cultural representations, and identities. Starting with the public protests of 2011/2011 -- dubbed as Snow Revolution -- and the introduction of the so-called anti-gay propaganda law in 2013, US-media, especially the daily news genre, frequently focused on, what they perceived to be, liberal Russian subjects, thematizing their (physical) vulnerability vis-à-vis the Russian state, the Orthodox Church, and society. Especially Russian feminists, queers, and people with disabilities became seen as figures worth US solidarity and protection: popular figures like singer Madonna spoke out in solidarity with Russian LGBTs and the group Pussy Riot, and TV series (The Americans 2013-; Orange is the New Black 2013-2019; Shameless US 2011-) and Hollywood films (Red Sparrow 2018) started featuring Russian protagonists.

The project asks for the reasons, cultural significance and goals of the increasing interest in Russian subjects and bodies. Building on work on embodiment and vulnerability (Butler, Grosz etc.), it interrogates into the place of Russian vulnerable bodies and citizens against the background of the increasing disassociation of Russia from the US as well as Europe within media reports, tabloids, TV-shows, and popular culture, as well as countercultural discourses. The main interest of the project is to find out, how US media and popular culture negotiates national values through embodiment and figuration through processes of identification, relation and othering.