The Silence of Difference: Race, Sexuality, & Disability in Soviet Pantomime After Stalin

Anastasia Kayiatos, Slavic Literature & Languages

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This paper considers the role of “full” speech in the fabrication of ideal Soviet subjectivity under late socialism; and the role of silence or vexed speech in coextensive constructions of alterity, especially for those “others” marked and marginalized by the linked categories of bodily difference: race, gender and disability. To these ends, it looks at the silent pantomime performances staged by artistic avant-garde and “deaf-mute” subcultures in the early 1960s, in particular, ones that dramatize “blackness” or “Africanness,” in order to understand how specifically Soviet productions of race turned on the question of silence, and how the silence of speechlessness was in turn inflected by figurations of race and gender.