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Queer Transnationalities. Towards a History of LGBTQ+ Rights in the Post-Soviet Space

Pubblicato l'ultimo volume della collana del Comitato unico di garanzia dell'Ateneo

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QUEER cover SST_verticale.jpgPubblicato anche in open access con la Pisa University Press, Queer Transnationalities è l'ultimo volume della collana del Comitato unico di garanzia (CUG) dell'Ateneo pisano.
Il libro è curato da Elena Dundovich, professoressa di Storia delle Relazioni internazionali al Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche UNIPI e presidente CUG, e da Simone A. Bellezza, professore di Storia moderna dell'Università Federico II di Napoli. L'opera sarà presentata a Pisa mercoledì 14 giugno alle 16 alla Gipsoteca di Arte Antica, anticipiamo qui la prefazione.


On the Political Significance of Queer Studies

On 24 February 2022 the troops of the Russian Federation started the invasion of Ukraine following an order of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the following days, as well as before the war broke out, Putin’s historical thinking has been thoroughly analyzed by historians, political scientists, and other experts. Just a couple of weeks later, on 9 March 2022, Moscow patriarch Kirill blamed the war on Ukraine and spotted in the Western “gay lob- bies” with their pride parades one of the reasons for Ukrainian de- generation that the war was meant to fight against. There were no more doubts that the conflict against the new political course in Kyiv was part of a greater attack on human rights.

During 2021 Memorial Italia, the Italian “section” of famous Russian and International Memorial, organized a series of round- tables focused on critical issues of the contemporary post-Soviet environment: one was dedicated to the Russo-Ukrainian war and one to LGBTQ+ activism in the area. After the second one, in June 2021, we felt that the significance of the queer question in the post-Soviet space needed further investigation and decided to put together a volume dedicated to a topic that the Western/Italian public opinion rarely addressed. One of the characteristics that impressed us the most was the transnational component of LGBTQ+ activism in every almost initiative we discussed, from the cultural ones to those dedicated to the defense of specific individuals. We had no hesitation in choosing this perspective to read such a multi- faceted phenomenon.

After having launched a call for papers, we were positively surprised by the quantity and quality of the proposals we received, but soon discovered that working on this book would cost more efforts and concern than we anticipated. Our Russian colleagues working in queer studies often had to emigrate from Russia in search of more welcoming countries and research institutions. Those who did not flee were forced to work in secrecy and to publish their work with pseudonyms. The war caught us in the middle of the writing process and could only add more reasons to worry: as some of the contributions to this volume described the strategies and the transnational networks that allowed LGBTQ+ activism to survive despite the persecution by the Russian government, we decided – in agreement with the authors – not to publish those papers that could endanger the few remaining channels of communication and support from outside the Russian Federation.

Despite these difficulties this volume aims to be a contribution to the understanding of queer identities and to the study of the struggle for their rights in the post-Soviet area. To each of these two goals is dedicated one section of the book: in the first part, entitled Making Sense of Queerness in a Transnational Context, we start off with Luc Beaudoin illustrating the origins and development of the persecution of homosexuality in Russia. The very original contribution by Mariya Levitanus analyzes the situation of queer people in Kazakhstan before and after the fall of the Soviet Union, while Martina Napolitano and Sandra Joy Russell describe the discourses on homosexuality in the construction of national identities respectively in Russian and Ukrainian literatures. Jill Martiniuk illustrates a singular cultural initiative in the Russian environment, that of Victoria Lomasko’s comics as queer art.

The second section addresses queer activism as a field of interaction between “East” and “West”: Laura Luciani gives a general assessment of this confrontation following the specific case of Georgia. Eugenia Benigni describes the international cooperation in the field of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights in Ukraine. Yana Kirey-Sitnikova’s essay gives a fundamental contribution to the his- tory of trans activism in Russia and Masha Beketova takles the issue of national, sexual, and gender identity in post-Soviet diasporas in Germany. Finally, Simone Bellezza provides an introduction to the volume through a still provisional historiographic account of post-Soviet queer studies.

As emerges from the many elements of continuity with already established strands of research, as well as from the many new fea- tures compared to past scholarship, this book is not conceived as an end point of research but as a further impetus for discussion in a field that has seen a tremendous growth in new publications and readership over the past five years. In 2001 Dan Healey pointed out in his famous Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia that queer studies are not only the specific research dedicated to what clearly remains a minority of the population, but they also allow us to uncover the general articulation of the construction of gender and sexuality and elucidate how these two interact with political power by influencing the sense of belonging and other types of cultural, social, and political loyalties. We therefore hope that this volume will contribute to the genuine understanding of the dynamics that have led to the current ongoing conflict despite the many attempts of the propaganda to present a one-sided unproblematic fresco.

 Elena Dundovich, Simone A. Bellezza


  • 9 giugno 2023

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