In this latest episode of In Theory, Kristin Engelhardt interviews Edward Tyerman, Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, about his book, Internationalist Aesthetics: China and Early Soviet Culture (Columbia University Press, 2021).

In his study, Tyerman offers not only a deep insight into cultural production in early 1920s Soviet culture that sought to capture Chinese culture through an “Internationalist lens”, but also a transnational look at the mutual relations between China and Russia in terms of political history and revolutionary ambitions.

Through a close reading of different media, Tyerman defines the internationalist aesthetics as oscillating between centripetal and centrifugal forces. He reveals the aspirations of transnational mediators and the Soviet avant-garde protagonists such as Sergei Tretyakov to overcome an exoticized imaginary of China and transform it into a broader knowledge through sensory experience, leading to a new political subjectivity.

By revisiting these experimental media and internationalists search for a method that is tangential to the political Sino-Soviet interweaving of the time, the book presents media such as literature, cinema and theatre as important catalysts for understanding history and stresses the importance of the internationalist project to intellectual history.

Kristin Engelhardt, born in Hamburg, completed her BA studies in German and Italian Literature at the Universities of Hamburg and Geneva. As part of a double degree program, she received her Master’s degree in French and Francophone Studies from Humboldt University in Berlin and the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice. Her thesis explores the reception of French Surrealism in the GDR and, in particular, the anthology Surrealismus in Paris. 1919-1939 by Karl-Heinz Barck, published by Reclam in 1986. Her general research interests include avant-gardes of the 20th century with a special focus on Surrealism, Menippean satire, authors of the early modern period, and Fashion Theory. She is currently working as an editor at rethink GmbH in Berlin.

Edited by: Kristin Engelhardt

Featured Image: Cover of Sergei Tretyakov’s book ‘Zhongguo’ (“China”) published in 1927.