The Borders of Common Sense: Imagining Reality in a Post-Soviet Place

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
1219 International Affairs Building

Diana Blank (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Harriman Institute)

This paper examines sensationalistic accounts of several extraordinary events said to have occurred in a Ukrainian border town. These stories are communally recognized as valid, and yet their details are ultimately unverifiable. The paper locates in these stories both an eloquent metaphorical shorthand for the lived political realities of the town and guideposts for navigating that entrenched political landscape. Along the way, it engages with some contemporary interdisciplinary conversations on “conspiracy theory,” the “public sphere” and the “social imaginary,” and considers some of the premises of these conceptualizations.

Diana Blank received her doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley in 2005, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University's Harriman Institute. Her most recent academic publication, entitled “Fairytale Cynicism in the Kingdom of Plastic Bags: The Powerlessness of Place in a Ukrainian Border Town,” appeared in Ethnography in autumn 2004.