A usable past in a global world: the case of Russia

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Convener: Dr Nutsa Batiashvili (REES & Free University of Tbilisi)

Speaker: Professor James V. Wertsch (Washington University in St Louis)

Rising frustration over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and elsewhere have led some Western leaders to conclude that Russian leaders are living in a “different world.”  My presentation will examine the source of these frustrations by analyzing the national narratives that shape interpretations of one’s own and others’ actions.  Drawing on ideas from anthropology and psychology about alternative imagined realities, I will focus on how national “narrative templates” serve as the underlying code or “cultural DNA” that guides Russian and U.S. accounts of the past and present.  Empirical evidence from a survey study of U.S. and Russian accounts of World War II will be presented to illustrate these claims.

 About the speaker

James Wertsch is a professor of Sociocultural Anthropology, David R. Francis Distinguished Professor and Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St Louis.

He is currently the Vice Chancellor for International Relations, director of McDonnell International Scholars Academy.