MacGeorge Fellowship for Soviet era food expert

September 16 / 186

Soviet era propaganda poster: "Hard work will supply cities with food and counryside with machinery"
Soviet era propaganda poster: "Hard work will supply cities with food and counryside with machinery"

The internationally regarded linguistics and Russian studies scholar Darra Goldstein has been awarded the 2016/2017 MacGeorge Fellowship to complete a piece of scholarly research and writing, hosted by the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne. 

The Fellowship includes a residency at the historic Ballengeich home, bequeathed to the University by the artist, arts patron and arts educator Norman MacGeorge as part of a larger gift supporting scholarship.

Darra Goldstein is the Willcox B and Harriet M Adsit Professor of Russian at Williams College in the United States, and Founding Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, which was named the 2012 Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.

She has published widely on literature, culture, art, and cuisine and has organised several exhibitions, including Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age and Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, 1500-2005, both at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

Professor Goldstein will complete a book chapter and scholarly article during her residency, investigating the role of food in the ‘utopian experiment’ that was the Soviet Union.

“By 1922, the Soviet Ministry of Enlightenment was already theorizing the conditions under which politically and socially liberated Soviet citizens would thrive,” Professor Goldstein says.

“No aspect of life went untouched in the government’s efforts to transform the essential structure of society: literacy, hygiene, and nutrition were all part of the educational campaigns.

“In particular, the Soviets demonized the nuclear family with its personal rather than collective values. Women had to be liberated from familial burdens and demands, most famously those involving the kitchen. 

“By the mid-1920s the Soviet government had come up with a radical idea: massive factory-kitchens to feed the collective rather than the individual. The public preparation and serving of meals offered a crucial opportunity to remove individuals from unhealthy domestic environments.”

During her residency Professor Goldstein plans to explore the rise and fall of the factory-kitchens, as well as other culinary aspects of the alleged utopia that flourished under Stalin. These include such activities as the promotion of hygienic government shops over traditional farmers markets, the advancement of “ethnic” recipes from the constituent Soviet republics to further ideals of national unity, and the creation of a myth of abundance through lavish vitrines, colourful posters, illustrated cookbooks, and mass carnivals that harked back to medieval European practice.

A public lecture is an element of the fellowship and further details will be available soon.

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