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About me

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I am a historian and sociologist based at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany. My main research interests are in protest and social movements, commemorative practices, and war memorials and military cemeteries. I am particularly interested in unexpected parallels and interconnections between these phenomena, such as structural similarities between protest and commemorative movements. Geographically, my work focuses on the Soviet Union and its successor states and former satellite countries, though I am also interested in transnational connections and comparisons e.g. with Western and South-Eastern Europe and the Global South. My main current projects are on the history of Soviet war memorials; on the past and present of Soviet-style Victory Day celebrations; and on the author of a remarkable history of a small village in South-Eastern Belarus. I am also part of a global team of scholars doing comparative research on protest in the BRICS countries.

My approach owes most to Annales-style cultural history and French pragmatism, specifically the sociology of regimes of engagement. In addition to my interest in specific fields, I also have extensive experience as a professional mediator between different academic disciplines. My academic training and career has been entirely in programs and institutions (in Oxford, Paris, Moscow, Princeton, and Potsdam) dedicated to interdisciplinary dialogue, and I spent many years working as a journal editor and translator. Thus I have developed a very good sense not only of the conventions in place across different provinces of the humanities and social sciences, including variation within  disciplines, but also of the specific ways in which disciplinary boundaries are drawn in different countries and institutions.

Having effectively grown up quadrilingual, I publish regularly in English, French, German, and Russian. I also speak passable Italian, Spanish, and Ukrainian, have a good but largely passive understanding of Belarusian, Polish, Yiddish, and Portuguese, and can usually get the gist of texts in most other Romance, Slavic, and Germanic languages. I have also worked with documents in Estonian—one of my ancestral languages—and gained certificates in Japanese, Turkish, and Arabic in my teens and twenties (not to mention five years of Latin and one year of Ancient Greek). While I do not get regular practice in these languages, or a few others I have briefly studied, I have found that a few days’ immersion helps me get back to a very basic level of reading comprehension and conversation when needed.

An avid traveller, I have spent time in every European country as well as various parts of North America, North Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, and Australia. When not working in archives or doing ethnographic fieldwork, I am happiest on a bicycle, a mountain hiking trail or in a kayak. I am vegan, and recommend that you stop or reduce your consumption of animal products.

This page has been out of date for a long time. I am slowly working on reconstructing it and adding info on some of my projects. In the meantime, please visit this page for a selection of my publications.