Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie


Postdoctoral research


Realizations and Reception in the Humboldt Forum (CARMAH), November 2020 – now


Project leader: Prof. Dr. Sharon Macdonald

Project researchers: Irene Hilden & Dr. Andrei Zavadski


Realizations and Reception in the Humboldt Forum (ReRe) is a sub-project of Making Differences. Transforming Museums and Heritage in the 21st Century, a multi-researcher project examining ongoing museum and heritage transformation, with a focus on Berlin, including the Humboldt Forum. Making Differences has been devised and directed by Sharon Macdonald. It is based at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and is funded through Macdonald’s Alexander von Humboldt Professorship.

ReRe comprises CARMAH’s engagement in exhibition-making at the Forum, especially the Humboldt Lab (Tal Adler’s Who is ID 8470?), as well as audience/reception research (Irene Hilden, Andrei Zavadski, Sharon Macdonald). The audience/reception research understands visitors and others interacting with the exhibitions as active meaning-makers whose engagement is not only in response to what is presented. This part of the project is structured around three categories: the postcolonial, the postsocialist, and worlding (with the latter denoting the possibility of articulating and performing ‘alternative ways of being in the world’). Thus, we focus on how Germany’s histories, including its colonial past and the GDR, are figured through the completed space, what groups within the nation and beyond it are implicated in the resulting presentation, as well as who interrelates with it and in what ways.

Keywords: audience/reception research | exhibition analysis | museum, memory & postcolonial studies | thinking between the posts | Berlin | Humboldt Forum





The Garage Journal: Studies in Art, Museums & Culture, August 2019 – now


A member of the Editorial Board of The Garage Journal, an independent interdisciplinary platform that advances critical discussions about contemporary art, culture, and museum practice in the Russian and global contexts. It publishes empirical, theoretical, and speculative research in a variety of genres, celebrating innovative ways of presentation. Fully peer-reviewed and available in open access, it aims to provide a sourcebook of ideas for an international audience.





Reconstituting Publics through Remembering Transitions: Facilitating Critical Engagement with the 1980-90s on Local and Transnational Scales, 2020 – 2023 

Three decades after the radical transformations of the USSR and its satellites began in the 1980s–1990s, the topic of ‘transitioning’ from socialist states to liberal democracies remains highly contentious in Central and Eastern Europe. Over the last decade, the transitional past has been increasingly instrumentalized, by national-populist actors and in the counter-memories of their opponents. In the context of heated contestations of memory, with high political stakes, spaces for dialogue are rapidly shrinking and public spheres are becoming increasingly ‘disconnected.’

The project addresses this societal issue by engaging with memory practices of the ‘transitional period’ beyond the polarized versions. Drawing on approaches of cultural analysis of discourse and affect, critical memory studies, public history, (digital) ethnography, and intersectional study of gender and generations, we aim to develop strategies for facilitating more cohesive and at the same time more critical practices of remembering that have the potential to lead to dialogue and form reflective communities. The comparative approach will allow for developing strategies and policies on a transnational (European) level based on trans-local resonances rather than top-down scripts.

Team members: Ksenia Robbe (Principal Investigator), Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen; Agnieszka Mrozik, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences; Andrei Zavadski, Post-doctoral Researcher at the Center for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Alexander Formozov, Dekabristen e.V.

The project is part of the Constructive Advanced Thinking (CAT) programme – an initiative of 12 European Institutes for Advanced Study and coordinated by the IAS CEU in 2021/22.


Institute for Advanced Study, Central European University

Zukunftskolleg Universität Konstanz: Selected CAT Teams




Remembering Stalin’s Gulag in Russian Museums. A special issue of Problems of Post-Communism, co-edited with Sofia Gavrilova, forthcoming 2022

The issue will be a collection of empirical studies analysing the commemoration in Russian museums of Joseph Stalin’s repression. The official memory politics of contemporary Russia provides limited space for remembering the Soviet dictator and his doings outside his largely mythologised role in World War Two. In this light, the main question that this collection’s authors seek to answer is: How are Stalin’s Gulag and its victims commemorated today in museums across Russia?