Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
M.A., University of California, Berkeley
B.A., Reed College
I offer courses in Russian language at all levels, modern Russian literature, culture, and society, and in film and media studies. My courses are often designed to put Russian texts into dialogue with a range of other traditions and literatures, with various interdisciplinary goals and approaches in mind. Having studied as an undergraduate at Reed College, I think the most enriching part of my professional life have been teaching and advising. Over the past several years, I’ve offered courses on the representation of race in Russia cultural production, survey courses on such topics as Russian and Soviet Cinema, special topics courses on, for example, the representation of labor, the work of Vladimir Nabokov, and the cinematic work and theory of Sergei Eisenstein. In the coming years, I’m hoping to continue to teach these courses, and to provide new offerings on such topics as the concept of form, the poetics and politics of language, and the study of prehistory.
My research interests and specializations include twentieth century Russian and Soviet literature, in particular modernist tendencies; the cultural history and philosophy of archaeology and anthropology; critical theory; and interdisciplinary approaches to Russian and Soviet literary and visual culture. I am especially interested in exploring what links cultural production to the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, and ethnography.
I am currently at working on two projects, both of which focus on material or periods I am currently teaching or hope to do so in the coming years. The first project, Specters of Empire: Early Soviet Cinema and the Representation of Race, considers how race and ethnicity emerged as a crucial area for all aspects of early Soviet culture and cinema, prompting cultural thinkers and filmmakers to come up with representational forms proper to the values of socialist revolution, while also scrutinizing West-European forms of representing race on screen. I argue that we find a remarkable assessment of the relationship between race, cinematic form, and imperial/anti-imperial politics during the period, spearheaded not only by the luminaries of cinema and cultural criticism, but also by a range of other remarkable directors, film and literary critics, and critical theorists. Focusing on exemplary films, the book shows how the 1920s constitutes an early chapter in the so-called “genealogy of anti-imperial thought” and cultural production and criticism.
My other long-term project seeks to contribute to the interdisciplinary study of late Socialism and the history of archaeology, art history, and the history of science. This project, Archaeology in the Twilight of Utopia: Late Socialism and the Rediscovery the Archaic considers the appeal, both in the Soviet Union and in Europe, of the archaic, especially of prehistory, from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. Among the many pasts recuperated in the aftermath of Stalinism, the prehistoric was the oldest. It becomes the subject of a range of works, media, and critical theories, from novels and films to Soviet art-historical and semiotic accounts of prehistory. I’ve begun publishing and lecturing on topics such as the discovery of prehistoric cave painting in the Kapova Cave in the Ural mountains and Soviet art historical debates on the origins of art. As part of this project, I recently organized "Eisenstein's History of Art: An International Symposium," here at the College.
I also work with various colleagues on the Historical Poetics Research Group, initiated by Boris Maslov (Oslo), with upcoming seminars on such topics as historical time and literary form (UC Berkeley, 2020) and another in preparation on Nikolai Marr.
Along with my teaching and research, I currently direct the Center for Russian Culture and serve on the advisory board of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, the steering committee of the Program in Film and Media Studies, and the editorial board of the Amherst College Press.
— "The Cave Paintings of Kapova: Toward a Socialist map of prehistory," RES: Anthropology and aesthetics 69-70: Writing Prehistory, eds. Stefanos Geroulanos and Maria Stavrinaki (Spring-Autumn, 2018): 118-135.
—“Our Native Antiquity”: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Culture of Russian Modernism. Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures and History. Beacon, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2015. Introduction.
Selected Awards and Honors
Kunichika’s first book “Our Native Antiquity" (2015) received honorable mention for the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize (2016) sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies and Stanford University's Center for Russian and East European Studies. It was also short-listed for the AATSEEL Best Book in Literary and Cultural Studies (2016).
Willis F. Doney Member, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, 2015-16
Senior Fellow, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, 2013-14
Faculty Fellow, The Humanities Initiative, NYU, 2010-11
Dissertation Fellow, Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley, 2006-07