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Inaugural Lecture - Professor Susan Morrissey (UCL SSEES)

Tuesday 11 March 2014 - 6.30pm

Wilkins Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, 2nd Floor, South Junction, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT


Susan Morrissey

Professor Susan Morrissey (UCL SSEES)

Susan Morrissey is Professor of Russian History at SSEES. After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley, she worked in the US and Germany before coming to London in 1998. Her research explores the boundaries between cultural, social, and political history, and she enjoys thinking conceptually and comparatively about history. Her research spans multiple topics – student movements, suicide, mass culture, subjectivity, and political violence. Her publications include Suicide and the Body Politic in Imperial Russia (CUP 2006, 2011) and ‘The “Apparel of Innocence”: Toward a Moral Economy of Terrorism in Late Imperial Russia’ (Journal of Modern History, 2012). She has received fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, and the British Academy.

In the Line of Fire: Terrorism and Political Violence in Late Imperial Russia

In the early twentieth century, Russia experienced a wave of terrorism unprecedented in European history: hundreds of assassinations, bombings, and ‘expropriations’ claimed thousands of casualties. Terrorism spread in a dynamic interplay with other forms of revolutionary and especially state violence – martial law, capital punishment, and military-led ‘pacification campaigns’; and violence became an omnipresent topic in a new public sphere and commercial mass media. This lecture excavates this particular moment to pose broader questions about how political violence is constructed and deployed.

Russian graphic art depicted revolutionary and state violence in visually provocative ways. In this example, death runs through the streets of a cityscape.

How do narrative and visual ‘frames’ (J. Butler) serve to establish and delimit its ‘reality’, whether by counting, naming, and commemorating its victims or by identifying its perpetrators or sources? How do individuals, acting alone or in collectives, claim violence as a sovereign right and wield it against the state? How is the target dehumanized as an enemy who can be killed?

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