I am a historian and cultural studies scholar working on Soviet cultural history and Russian digital media. I am Senior Lecturer in European Studies and I have taught in Media Studies, History and the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies.
CURRENT RESEARCH: I am working on projects (of varying scales) that are as yet in their infancy: 1) On intimacy, friendship and radical politics in the history of socialist praxis 2) On digital platforms in Uzbekistan 3) On OTT platforms in Northeast India
I am part of the research group Belonging and Identity and the research group Digital Networks, Communications, and Technologies. I am a member of the working group on Cultures of World Socialism (arts and literature of the socialiost world). I am on the steering committee of the international, peer-reviewed journal Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media. I am also part of the editorial team of the book series European Studies: An Interdisciplinary Series in European Culture, History and Politics (Brill Publishers). Additionally, I am now curator of the Prajnya Archives for the visual documentation of women in public life in South Asia.
Appointed under the Nieuwe Generatie Offensief programme that encourages interdisciplinary professional profiles, I have special teaching and research interests in Russian cultural studies, cultural history, historical media and new media cultures. I have taught a variety of courses across three departments, with diverse disciplinary foci, including postcolonial autobiography, Soviet cultural history and media reception. In 2016, my Master's course in East European Studies, "Intimate Politics: Culture and Subjectivity in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia" won the Onderwijsprijs or Teaching Excellence Prize in the Humanities.
I was, previously, Research Affiliate with the Media Studies group at the Research Institute of History and Culture in the University of Utrecht, from 2008-13. In Fall 2012, I was visiting faculty in the University of Leiden's inaugural Russian area studies programme, co-teaching a M.A course in Soviet cultural history. I studied in the University of Bombay (India) and in Moscow (Russia), and received a PhD in Russian history in Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. I have also worked as researcher in the International Institute for Social History (Amsterdam) and the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (Leiden).
*NEW!* My latest book Journeys of Soviet Things: Cold War as Lived Experience in Cuba and India ( published in the Routledge Global Cold War Cultures series) is situated at the intersection of history, material culture studies and post-socialist memory studies. The project is an oral history of socialist globalisation constructed around the journeys of Cold War era Soviet objects - household appliances, decorative artefacts, books - in India and Cuba. During the Cold War, an important means to perpetuate Soviet ideals of modernisation and anti-imperialist solidarity across the world was the circulation of ‘banal’ objects, produced in the Soviet Union and purchased, awarded and gifted for use in homes across the world. Based on oral accounts of Indian and Cuban interlocutors, this book examines the itineraries of Soviet objects such as cars, washing machi:es, cameras, books, nesting dolls, porcelain, and many other things. Explored this way, the Cold War is a matter of personal, affective, everyday experience. At the same time, by indicating the cohabitation of things in their home from around the world, interlocutors also go on to undercut simple geopolitical binaries that pit Soviet against American technopolitics. Accounts of Soviet objects in India and Cuba reveal a bricolage of preferences that crisscrossed ideological dualities of East vs West, communist vs. capitalist, making for an alternative cosmopolitanism that was in equal measure shaped by personal, local and national histories and experiences.
Listen to this podcast about Journeys of Soviet Things on the New Books in History Network.
My first book: Indian Films in Soviet Cinemas: the Culture of Moviegoing after Stalin
My doctoral work, a product of archival and ethnographic research in Russia, was an ethno-historical study of Indian cinema's reception in the post-Stalinist Soviet era, and the first such study of Soviet movie-going. It allowed me to combine oral histories with archival material, and was thus situated at the intersection of memory studies, audience studies, media ethnography and history. These findings have been published as Indian Films in Soviet Cinemas: the Culture of Movie-going after Stalin (IUP, Bloomington, 2010).
Listen to me speak about Indian cinema's popularity in the Soviet Union in this episode, "From Bombay with Love" in the podcast series '99% Invisible.'
In the recent past, I have also worked on media convergence or cross-medial cultures, trying to understand how the convergence of television, cinema and the internet (in particular) offers new spaces for everyday cultural-political habits. My earlier research interests in oral history and the history of Soviet culture and everyday life have also endured.
"Fresh and sophisticated, well-written and accessible, this highly original book not only makes an important contribution to the global history of Indian cinema, it also illuminates Soviet social and cultural history during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras." —Denise J. Youngblood, University of Vermont
(Denise J. Youngblood, University of Vermont)
"The ultimate outcome of socialism is melodrama, so it is no wonder that Indian films became so popular in the Soviet Union after the Stalin era that one could consider them a separate Soviet film genre. This fascinating book offers not only an analysis of the dynamic of the film industry and consumption in the USSR but also shows deep understanding of Soviet sensitivity and imagination." —Evgeny Dobrenko, University of Sheffield
(Evgeny Dobrenko, University of Sheffield)
"This is a book that deserves a place in the libraries, personal and institutional, of all scholars and students of Soviet cinema and popular culture." —Slavic Review
"[T]his book has value beyond the explicit subject matter of Indian popular films.... [B]y focusing on mutual influence and negotiation, Rajagopalan adds colour and voice to 'monochrome' images of movie-going culture after Stalin." —Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Vol. 4, No. 3
(Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema)
"[Indian Films in Soviet Cinemas] is invaluable in that it provides such an interesting view of the conflicts and contradictions that existed within one facet of Soviet culture." —Slavic and East European Journal, 55.1 Spring 2011
(Slavic and East European Journal 2011-01-00)
"[The author's] study provides an engaging and thought-provoking read and should appeal to a wide variety of scholars, including those interested in Russia and the Soviet Union, media studies, and film reception." —American Historical Review, June 2011
(American Historical Review 2011-01-00)
"Rajagopalan's book is an illuminating and welcome contribution to multiple fields... providing concrete and deeply contextual elaborations of frequently all-too-general claims about global cultural exchanges and affinities." —American Ethnologist
"This fascinating study of box office statistics suggests that Indian movies were more popular than any other foreign films shown in the Soviet Union. Rajagopalan's ethnohistorical study of Indian cinema shows why this is so and reveals the intricacies of Soviet popular culture of the post-Stalin period." —The Russian Review
(The Russian Review)
Since 2009, I have also regularly done research on Russian digital media cultures, often cross-medial practices. My publications about reality television reception, fandoms, slash cultures and nostalgic You Tube remix videos have engaged with debates on celebrity, identity, post-feminism and memory in the post-Soviet space.
Rajagopalan, S. (organiser along with Dina Fainberg at City University, London, and Tal Zalmanovich at the University of Haifa). (16/17-6-2022). "Spaces of Transnational Solidarities during the Cold War." June 2022 (with the generous support of the Amsterdam centre for European Studies).
Rajagopalan, S. (organiser). (31-1-2022) "Rethinking New Media Studies from the East and the South." Held under the aegis of 'Participatory Cultures: New Media Practices' research group in ARTES, and with the support of ARTES,
Rajagopalan, S. (organiser) (18-5-2018). Conference "Media Systems under Pressure: RecentDevelopments in Media Freedom in Central and Eastern Europe", Amsterdam. Co-organised with Mariëlle Wijermars, this workshop is organized by ARTES research group ‘Participatory Cultures: Post-Socialist New Media Practices’ (…) (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
Rajagopalan, S. (organiser) & Lajosi-Moore, K. K. (organiser) (6-7-2017). Political Feelings in Participatory Media, Amsterdam (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
Rajagopalan, S. (organiser) & Amico, S. (organiser) (11-6-2015). Past the “-Post”, Amsterdam (organising a conference, workshop, ...)
Rajagopalan, S. "Incidental Soviet Objects: Geopolitical Liminality in India during the Cold War." Conference on Soviet Materialities. Jesus College. University of Cambridge. April 2022.
Rajagopalan, S. Keynote plenary speaker. "Decolonising media studies: an East European perspective." European Communication Research andEducation Association (ECREA) conference. September 2021.
Rajagopalan, S. "Domestic Spaces: Soviet Objects and Geopolitical Imagination in India and Cuba." The Wende Museum (California), May 2021.
Rajagopalan, S. Plenary talk on 'Consumption and Participation'. Launch of Global Digital Cultures, University of Amsterdam, October 2020.
Rajagopalan, S. "Tales of Solidarity: Soviet Objects, Personal Biographies, and Cold War Memories in Cuban Homes.” Conference on Poetic Justice: Narrating Personhood, Solidarity, and Citizenship. University of Utrecht, May 2020.
Rajagopalan, S. 'The “Cultural Cold War”:, Munchen. Journeys of Soviet Things: Cold War entanglements in Cuban homes (participating in a conference, workshop, ...). 22-24 October 2019
Rajagopalan, S. Socialist World, "Third World", Media Worlds: an exploratory workshop, University College London. 6 November 2018
Rajagopalan, S. "Affective Solidarity on Russian New Media: the case of Diana Shurygina." Conference "Media Systems under Pressure: RecentDevelopments in Media Freedom in Central and Eastern Europe", Amsterdam. 18 May, 2018
Interview/talk on Stalinist terror in Soviet and post-Soviet memory, followed by film screening, De Balie, October 23, 2017.
“Imagination and citizenship”, a talk on memory on Russian new media in the workshop Forum on post-Soviet culture, UvA, 2016
“Competing imaginaries on digital platforms in Russia” in the forum “Licht op Rusland. Russische digitale revolutie: vrijheid en isolatie, Organised with the Nederlands Instituut Petersburg (NIP). Spui 25, December 2016
“Inclusive Narratives: Participation and Plurality in Russian New Media”, at “The Future of Independent Russian media” forum, organised by the University of Amsterdam, Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken and Free Press Unlimited, April 2016.
'The performance of boredom: experiences on Russia's other new media', 'Bland, Boring, Banal' symposium, UvA, December 2015.
“Unspectacular politics: Television, internet and everyday political habits in Russia”, at the Past the “-Post”: Theorizing the Post-Post-Soviet via (New) Media and Popular Culture, UvA, June 2015.
'Affect in Soviet encounters with India: cinema, celebrity and emotion in international relations', International workshop on Soviet Encounters with India, RANEPA, Moscow, December 16-17, 2013.
'Shoppers and dupes: the TV audience in Russian discourses', International Communication Association annual conference, June 2013, London.
‘Cinema in an earlier time: sites of cultural memory on the Runet’, Roundtable participant at a conference on ‘Seeing Socialism(s) in Eastern Europe: Visual Cultures and the Writing of History,’ Centre for International Studies and Research, Paris, December 2012.
“Cultural Citizens , not Couch Potatoes: the participatory world of Russian online fandoms,” CEELBAS (Centre for East European Language-Based Area Studies) conference, University College London, June 2011.
“Hyperlinked: Shahrukh Khan’s celebrity in the affective spaces of Russian online fandom,” Department of Ethnology, University of Vienna, September 2010.
“Sartorial Citizens: the interactive web audience for Russian Makeover Television,” CEELBAS workshop “Deterritorialised Cultures,” Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Manchester, May 2010.
“Stars in their Eyes: Fandom and the making of Indian film celebrity in Soviet movie culture,” The Centre for Comparative Social Studies and the Institute for Culture & Values, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, February 2010.
“Not Just Spooky: the collaborative aesthetics of Supernatural Fandom on Runet (Russian-language internet),” School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, October 2009.
“Supernatural Fandom on Runet,” European Association for Social Anthropology (online seminar), November 2009.
“The Construction of Celebrity: Indian movie Stars in the Soviet Everyday”, CEELBAS, “Whose Culture?,” Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Sheffield, March 2008.
Manuscript peer-review for Slavic Review, Kritika: Explorations in Russian History, and New Media and Society.
Intimate Politics: Culture and Subjectivity in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia (winner of the Onderwijs Prijs or Teaching Excellence Prize in 2016 for best Master's Course in the Humanities at UvA)
20th century Soviet history (BA major specialisation course).
Russian pop culture: movies, TV and the internet (B.A European Studies)
Philosophy of Humanities (Area Studies) and Philosophy of Humanities (European Studies).
Thinking (Post) Colonial Europe
Digital Media: Global Practices ( co-taught with Stefania Milan at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, UvA, 2023).
I also supervise B.A and M.A theses in East European Studies (but also topics to do with cultural history or contemporary media cultures in Europe, in general)
I co-supervise PhD dissertations.
In the past, I have taught:
"Russia: ordinary people, extraordinary practices." B.A Honours module at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, UvA.
"The Other Europe" (B.A European Studies)
"Digital media analysis" (B.A Media Studies)
"Genre and the nation: national cinemas in America, Russia and India" (B.A Media and Culture Studies)
"Media audiences" (B.A thesis workgroup in Media Studies)
Kino: the poetics and politics of Russian cinema (B.A thesis workgroup in Media Studies)
"Childhood memories: the use of digital sources for history "(B.A research group in History)
"Post-colonialism and autobiography" (B.A Research group in History)
Guest columns on Russia in The Wire, India's main digital platform for independent journalism (2017-).
Blog posts on Russian new media developments and related theoretical issues for Russian Cyberspace, (russ-cyberspace.livejournal.com), an academic blog on LiveJournal, 2008-10.
Writings on culture and development in various parts of the world, for Power of Culture (www.powerofculture.nl), formerly a Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken publication.
“Twitter as public sphere: A digital utopia?,” Sunday Guardian (New Delhi), January 2010.
Articles on colonial anthropology and material culture in Indonesia and Siberia, Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden, 2000-2002.