Melanie Ilic at BASEES Conference 2016
8th April 2016
I spent the final weekend of the Easter vacation at the BASEES annual conference in Cambridge. As the current BASEES Membership Secretary and a founder member of the new BASEES Women’s Forum, this turned out to be a busy conference for me. I attended several meetings, enjoyed several cultural events that formed part of the conference programme and did all of the usual conference networking.
My paper this year ‘Looking for Love in Soviet Society’ was part of a panel on ‘Women and Men: Love, Equality and Marriage in Post-War Soviet Society’. The paper highlighted the attitudes of mainly Russian women growing up in the Soviet Union in terms of their sex education, moral attitudes, expectations and conduct in intimate relationships. My colleague from the University of Vilnius, Lithuania, Prof Dalia Leinarte, offered comparative findings to my study by highlighting the similarities and differences in the reported and recorded experiences of women in the Baltic States during the Soviet period. Dr Claire McCallum unfortunately was not able to travel to Cambridge but she presented her paper on the visual representations of fatherhood under Khrushchev via Skype.
On Saturday, I attended the Women’s Forum meeting, where the panel presentations this year focused on the pleasures and perils of conducting field work (interviews, archival research, ethnography) in our region, and particularly some of the problematic issues that women sometimes encounter in trying to undertake research in specific cultural contexts. At the end of this event, I was awarded a prize for my chapter on ‘Soviet Beauty Contests’, published in Competition in Socialist Society (Routledge, 2014).
Sunday was a very busy day. In addition to all of the usual conference activities, I attended the performance of Molodyi Teatr’s enjoyable play ‘Bloody East Europeans’, which examines the experiences and reception of East European migrant workers.
After the conference dinner, I went to the late night showing of the award winning film ‘In Search of a Lost Paradise’ (dir. Evgenyi Tsymbal). Writer and producer Alexander Smoljanski is a regular conference attendee. The film tells the story of two of the artists exiled from the Soviet Union after the bulldozing by the Soviet authorities of a non-conformist art exhibition in 1974. Trailers and reviews are available online.
I also took time during the conference to look at the poster exhibition on Serbian Writing and Language throughout History.