2009—2010 Forum on Connections
SAS Postdoctoral Fellow
Icon, Comrade, Diva: The Female Superstar in Russian Popular Music
The popular diva – from the Soviet-era musical, to the MTV video – has been and continues to be a salient presence in Russian music. In this work, I investigate the ways in which specific performers (including Liudmila Gurchenko and Sofiia Rotaru), in specific historical and geopolitical locations, have negotiated the musical, visual, and discursive presentation of “woman” within the context of an often rigidly patriarchal society, ultimately succeeding in elevating “the feminine” from the near-abject to the near-deified. This elevation, however, is not a static position, and the longevity of the superstar’s career necessitates a changing relationship to and skillful manipulation of numerous technologies (audio, visual and, indeed, surgical), in order to both maintain existing, and engender new connections with fan bases. Technology may also be implicated in relation to musical expression, and a focus on the stylistic choices of the artists – taken together with an understanding of their frequent appeal to both women and homosexual men – offers a productive means of understanding popular cultural production, in Soviet and post-Soviet space, as related to discourses, dynamics, and affects of modernity, Westernization, nationalism, and sexuality.