Materiality and (In-)Visibility: Women in Socialist and Post-Socialist Public Spaces

Hana Gründler, Julie Deschepper and Milica Prokić

Jewgeni Wutschetitsch, Nikolai Nikitin, The Motherland calls, Wolgograd 1967 | Wiktar Daschuk, The Unwomanly Face of War (film still), 1980–1984 | Zorka Ságlová, Laying Napkins near Sudomer, 1970 | Italo Orlando Griselli, Inauguration of the monument to Sophia Perovskaya, Saint Petersburg, 1918

This trans-disciplinary project explores the multiple presences of women within socialist and post-socialist public spaces, focusing on their representations, monumentalizations, and memorializations. Today, monuments to socialist women can still be found in public spaces, albeit in various states of conservation or, indeed, disrepair. The project questions the permanence of these material representations, and their resistance through time. Unlike the ‘eternally lasting’ stone that many monuments were made of, the discourses around them, as well as their political and social impact, have changed. They are subject to new readings, reinterpretations, and erasure, as well as to acts of historical revisionism and material iconoclasm. The project also seeks to analyse how and why these highly politicized materializations were, conversely, linked to a profound invisibility or even absence of women. Could it be that such monumentalizations underline the ‘invisibility’ of actual women, their everyday lives, and their deeds? Significantly, through various artistic and literary practices, women have reflected on the possibilities and limits of visibility. By the very act of acknowledging, performing and giving concrete existence to these absences, they have opened new possibilities for their own empowerment. The goal of the project is to examine the social, cultural, material and artistic histories of such practices, the controversial narratives they led to, and the often emotional reactions they provoked within their national, regional, and local specificities.

The project team has initiated a series of reading seminars with a multidisciplinary and international group of scholars, and organised an interdisciplinary workshop entitled “She is Made of Stone. Women in Socialist and Post-Socialist Public Spaces”. The results of these first exchanges will be disseminated in the form of a collective publication. In the future, the project aspires to broaden its current geographical scope beyond Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Hana Gründler
Research Group Leader (W2) 

Phone: +39 055 24911-65

Julie Deschepper
Academic Assistant, Department Gerhard Wolf


Milica Prokić
University of Glasgow 



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