Conference reports Bakhtin and carnivalesque culture today
Whether comic, violent, brutal, or burlesque, Bakhtin’s explorations of cultural communication today appeal to linguists and literary theorists; but also to artists, musicians, and scholars in education, Slavic languages, postcolonial studies, and many other fields.
Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds BW 2-3, 2014, p 89.
Published on balticworlds.com on oktober 9, 2014
In late July, a huge pink nude human figure filled the central space at the Royal Institute for Fine Arts on Skeppsholmen. The British artist Julia Hayes led a grand communal effort to inflate innumerable balloons filling a textile shell for her piece “There Shall Be Growth in the Next Quarter”. While the nude “Fat Man” materialized, Hayes talked about bubbles in economy as just one among many unrealistic figments of imagination that inspire hope in people, and thus steer society away from revolution in hard times. An art piece like this is perhaps not common at international academic conferences.
Photo Anders Gerdin
But at the 15th International Bakhtin Conference in Stockholm, it was one among several cultural expressions that used Bakhtin’s theories of meaning in praxis. Some 180 participants from Russia, Brazil, China, Italy, the US, Iran, India, and many other countries gathered in the Stockholm heat to discuss Mikhail Bakhtin’s work.
The 15th International Bakhtin Conference ”Bakhtin as Praxis: Academic Production, Artistic Practice, Political Activism” was organized by Södertörn University, the University of Gothenburg, and the Bakhtin Center at the University of Sheffield, generously supported by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond), the Royal Institute of Fine Arts, the Baltic Sea Foundation, and the the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities (Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien) July 23—27, 2014.
“The most international of the International Bakhtin Conferences so far”, was the summary made by Craig Brandist of the Bakhtin Center at the University of Sheffield on the last day of the conference. And the theme of the conference appealed to a wider range of scholars than usual. Yet although Bakhtin certainly proclaimed a preference for realism and authors such as Dostoevsky and Rabelais over all other art forms, his viral concept and theory of the carnivalesque has resonated in wide circles of cultural theory since the 1970s. The dialogical and heteroglossic Bakhtin thought of carnivalesque cultural expressions as socially ambiguous, like a valve by which tensions in communities could be released to prevent social unrest. Whether comic, violent, brutal, or burlesque, Bakhtin’s explorations of cultural communication today appeal to linguists and literary theorists; but also to artists, musicians, and scholars in education, Slavic languages, postcolonial studies, and many other fields.
The keynote speakers included Caryl Emerson, Princeton University; Augusto Ponzio, Aldo Moro University of Bari; Galin Tihanov, Queen Mary University of London; Ekaterina Degot, Akademie der Künste der Welt, Cologne; and Magnus af Petersens, Senior Curator at Moderna
Several prominent conference participants also engaged in a reenactment of Bakhtin’s defense of the dissertation “Rabelais in the History of Realism”, which took place at the Gorky Institute of World Literature in Moscow on November 15, 1946. Denis Zhernokleev and Caryl Emerson from Princeton University translated the manuscript from Russian to English, while Lars Kleberg undertook the adaptation, casting, and direction. ≈