Post-Soviet Graffiti: Co-optation in Authoritarian States

Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 International Affairs Building, 420 W 118th St)

Please join us for a talk with Alexis M. Lerner, PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute. Keith Gessen, Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School will chair.

As the Director of Post-Soviet Graffiti, Alexis Lerner spent 2009-2017 walking the post-Soviet and post-Communist region’s alleys and underpasses, interviewing artists and activists while cataloguing political, public graffiti. In Moscow, she observed a shift in the spring of 2012: political expression that was once critical, satirical, and intertextual became curated, pro-state, and notably nostalgic for Soviet symbols and the Russian military’s historic operations. The platforms for graffiti and public expression also changed from illegal scrawls and anonymous stencils on downtown bus-stops to seven-story murals adorned with governmental seals. In this talk, Lerner explores co-optation as an effective protest management tool used by hybrid states in order to demonstrate state capacity, to neutralize a non-violent protest movement, and to create a façade of political pluralism.

Alexis M. Lerner is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science and at the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. She is a 2017-2018 Visiting Scholar at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute and serves as the Director of Research for Stanford University’s U.S.-Russia Forum (2016-2018). Lerner is also the founder and principal researcher of Post-Soviet Graffiti, a research project that focuses on alternative avenues of free expression in the post-Soviet region.