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Brown Bag Lecture "The Alchemy of Estrangement"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
12:00 AM
202 S. Thayer St, Room 1022, Ann Arbor, MI

Featuring our Fellows <br> Alaina Lemon, anthropology

To practice ostranenie, or estrangement, is to battle automatic habits of perception by shifting perspectives or by disrupting expected relations among forms. Such artful manipulations, argued Shklovsky and many others, complicate representation, slow us down to make us sense anew, and make us re-cognize rather than merely recognize. This presentation will outline the aims and methods of one practitioner of estrangement, Vsevolod Meyerhold, in order then to pose a few speculative challenges to lingering presuppositions about the transformations we expect estrangement to affect, and about what it actually does or fails to do.

Alaina Lemon is an associate professor in the U-M Department of Anthropology. She is a socio-cultural and linguistic anthropologist who works in Russia and the Former Soviet Union. Her theoretical concerns lie mainly with ways to understand struggles over aesthetic techniques and communicative forms in relation to struggles over political change and social hierarchies. She has conducted research in theaters, film sets, government bureaus, street markets, and kitchens, as well as in archives and with media. Methodologically, Lemon's ethnographic writing situates interactions in field contexts within broader social contexts, and connects them to trajectories of longer duree. Through the Center for Russian and East European Studies (CREES), she works closely with colleagues across disciplines such as History, Literary Criticism, Slavic Studies, and Sociology. Her current project investigates ways that claims about trust and intuition both presuppose and produce social hierarchies.