Olga Shevchenko is a NOMIS Fellow at eikones – Center for the Theory and History of Images at the University of Basel (Switzerland) and professor of sociology at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Williams College (US).
Shevchenko completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. Her dissertation work and first book, Crisis and the Everyday in Postsocialist Moscow, were dedicated to exploring the lived dimension of postsocialist change in Russia. This ethnographic research took her to the apartments, offices, shopping centers and public places in Moscow, where she conversed with Muscovites about their understanding of the new ground rules of postsocialist life, tracing how people grappled with the simultaneous transformation of the economic, political and cultural landscape around them, and reformulated for themselves their notions of safety, morality and practical competence. The book received the Heldt Prize from AWSS (2009) and the Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies from ASEEES (2010).
While Shevchenko’s ethnographic research engaged with photography early on, photographs did not become the primary focus of her work until 2006, when she launched, in collaboration with Oksana Sarkisova of the Blinken OSA, the project Snapshot Histories. In this research, Shevchenko and Sarkisova used ethnographic interviews over family photographs with a range of multigenerational families in multiple locations, tracing the interplay, and at time, the conflicts, of interpretation that emerge on the intersections between public and family histories of socialism, and between members of different generations within the same family as they engage with the family photographic archives. The project treats photography as a technology of memory, concentrating on the circulation of Soviet-era family photographs in and beyond the home, and their frequent remediations in the public sphere, as a way of engaging with how post-Soviet citizens “do” memory. The project was supported by numerous grants and organizations, including the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the EURIAS program and the National Endowment for the Humanities. As a NOMIS Fellow at eikones, Shevchenko will be completing the final chapter of the manuscript, provisionally entitled “Snapshot Histories: The Afterlives of Soviet-Era Domestic Photography,” dedicated to the role of photographs in the commemorative Immortal Regiment processions, and working jointly with Sarkisova to revise the remaining chapters and bring the manuscript to completion.