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Virtual Conference - Slavic and East European Maternal Studies Network

Virtual Conference

Picture credit: I. Toidze, “In The Name of Peace” (1959)

Professor Muireann Maguire and Dr Eglė Kačkutė will co-convene a two-day online conference “Radiant Maternity”  on January 28th and 29th, 2022 to launch the Slavic and East European Maternal Studies Network. See below for a full programme.

We hope this event will boost and consolidate networking initiatives and knowledge exchange between scholars of Slavic and East European Studies (SEES) and non-SEES Maternal Studies academics, and we invite established Maternal Studies scholars from the latter group to act as mentors and peer supporters to SEES specialists who are entering this field. Panel topics include but are not confined to literature (maternal fictions), various fields of cultural studies, history, and sociology. Anyone wishing to attend as a non-speaking delegate should contact  by January 21st, 2022, to register their interest. The language of the conference is English and all times are given in GMT.

Vilnius University Main Court – the original location for this conference, before circumstances compelled us to go virtual

Distinguished historian Professor Natalia Pushkareva (Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow) will deliver the keynote lecture, “Bearing with Birth: A History of Childbearing in Russia as a Subject of  Academic Research”.  There will also be several optional non-academic sessions open to delegates, including a Maternal Journal session from creative artist Laura Godfrey-Isaacs. To promote networking and knowledge exchange, established non-SEES Maternal Studies researchers will chair each of the panels. In addition to aligning SEES Studies scholars with peers and mentors in wider disciplinary fields, we hope to use this conference to identify research themes to be further refined (in collaboration between SEES and non-SEES scholars) at our one-day in-person Exeter symposium to be held on July 9th, 2022 and ultimately published as an Open Access edited volume.

Conference dates: January 28th-29th, 2022 (online)

Organizers: Dr Eglė Kačkutė (Vilnius University) and Professor Muireann Maguire (University of Exeter)

Conference contact email:

Funded by ‘Salt Babies: Narrating Maternity in Russian and Comparative Literature,’ a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Networking Grant awarded to Dr Muireann Maguire at the University of Exeter, 2021-22

Conference Theme: “Radiant Maternity” is a two-day virtual conference intended

  1. to survey the field of contemporary Slavic and East European Maternal Studies scholarship, spanning sociology, history, literature, gender and cultural studies;
  2. to integrate motherhood scholars from Slavic and East European studies with Maternal Studies academics from other language areas and disciplines.

Key information:

  1. This conference will take place online over two days. Separate Zoom links for each day will be released to delegates shortly in advance of the conference. Non-speakers are welcome to attend both academic and non-academic activities if registered in advance, so please share this programme widely to your networks.
  2. To accommodate speakers from different time zones and to avoid parallel panels, this conference runs all day, both days. No delegate is expected to take part for the whole day; please come to the panels and sessions you find most interesting.
  3. The language of the conference is ENGLISH. All times are GMT.
  4. The panels are organized within four main ‘streams’: Cultures of Maternity, Literature, Cinema, and Medico-Social Histories. Each panel has two co-chairs/co-discussants, at least one of whom is a Motherhood Studies scholar NOT connected with Slavic and Eastern European Studies (SEES).
  5. There are FOUR optional non-academic activities delegates are encouraged to attend: an online debate about new maternal fictions from the SEES region, a talk about breastmilk donation in contemporary Russia, a maternal journaling session, and a virtual art exhibition. All are free to attend.


8.15 am (preliminary remarks by the organisers, Eglė Kačkutė and Muireann Maguire)

8.30am-10am: MEDICO-SOCIAL HISTORIES STREAM (1): Maternal Health Care in Central and Eastern Europe

CHAIRS: Melanie Ilic (University of Gloucestershire) and Julie Rodgers (Maynooth University)

  1. Ilona Kappanyos (ELTE Budapest): ‘Instructors in Motherhood: The Visiting Nurse System in State Socialist Hungary’.
  2. Anastasia Novkunskaya (European University at St. Petersburg) and Yulia Agapova (Department of Maternity and Childhood Protection, Inozemtsev Academy): ‘“Positive” and Actual Childbirth Experiences in Facility-Based Maternity Care in Russia’.
  3. Ljiljana Pantović (University of Belgrade): ‘Collective (Ir)responsibility: How is Maternal Care Provided Within the Serbian Health Care System?
  4. Jessica Lovett (Nottingham): ‘Prophecies, Hysteria, and Disappointments: Motherhood of Only Children in late-Soviet Propaganda and Discourse’.

10.15am-11.45pm: LITERATURE STREAM (1): Examining Motherhood in Literature

CHAIRS: Eliana Maestri (University of Exeter) and B.J. Epstein (UEA)

  1. Linara Bartkuvienė (Vilnius University): ‘Milk, Mutilation and Memory in Nora Ikstena’s Novel Soviet Milk (2015)’.
  2. Birutė Avižinienė (Modern Literature Department, Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, Lithuania): ‘The Concept of Motherhood in Ona Pleirytė-Puidienė’s Literary Works and Diary’.
  3. Dovilė Kuzminskaitė (Vilnius University, Faculty of Philology, Institute for Literary, Cultural and Translation Studies): ‘Dark Side of Motherhood: Mothering in the Poems of Lina Buividavičiūtė’.
  4. Dmitrii Sergeev (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual European Fellow, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge) ‘Single Motherhood in Postwar Soviet Russia: Cultural Code and its Literary Implication’.

12pm-1.30pm Professor Natalia Pushkareva: Keynote Speech

Bearing With Birth: The History of Childbirth in Russia as an Object of Sociological and Academic Research

Chair: Muireann Maguire

Following the keynote, there will be an intermission for lunch until 2pm.

2pm-3.30pm CULTURES OF MATERNITY STREAM (1): Motherhood in Contemporary Russian Mass Media and Pop Culture

CHAIR: Valerie Heffernan (Maynooth) and Rachel Morley (UCL SSEES)

  1. Diana Dukhanova (College of the Holy Cross) and Zosha Winegar-Schultz (UMN): ‘Ideologies and Aesthetics of Pronatalism Among Russian Instagram Influencers’.
  2. Jill Martiniuk (The University of Buffalo): ‘Marketing Motherhood: Maternity and Motherhood as Marketing Tools on Instagram’.
  3. Katarzyna Pasternak (Independent Scholar): ‘Soviet Woman – Mother and Worker. Implementation of the Soviet Gender Contract in the Contemporary Russian Series The 80s (Восьмидесятые)’
  4. Elena Marchevska (London South Bank University): ‘“Мојот маж”: Maternal discourse in Macedonian literature and theatre’.

3.45pm-5.15pm CINEMA STREAM (1): Interrogating Maternity on Screen

CHAIRS: Kasia Lech (Canterbury Christ Church University) and Sarah Arnold (Maynooth University)

  1. Salome Tsopurashvili (Ilia State University): ‘Reimagining Revolution as an Oedipal Drama: Transformation of the Mother Figure in 1920s Soviet Revolutionary Films’.
  2. Serian Carlyle (UCL): ‘“You have no right to decide these matters for yourself” (“Ty ne vprave reshatʹ eti voprosy samostoiatelʹno”): Young Women and Motherhood in Brezhnev-Era Films for Young People’.
  3. Melissa Miller (Notre Dame): ‘Alternative Visions of Motherhood in I’ll Be Around’.
  4. Rachel Morley (UCL): ‘Cinematernity: Representations of Motherhood in Contemporary Russian Women’s Cinema’.

5.30pm -7pm: LITERATURE STREAM (2): Memoirs of Motherhood

CHAIRS: Parley Ann Boswell (Eastern Illinois University) and Valerie Worth (Oxford)

  1. Elaine Mackinnon (University of West Georgia): ‘Motherhood and Memory in the Stalinist Gulag’.
  2. Sara Dickinson (Università di Genova): ‘Pregnancy and Parturition in the Memoirs of Catherine and Dashkova’.
  3. Natalya Sukhonos (Zayed University): ‘Motherhood, Math, and Posthumous Creativity in Lara Vapnyar’s Russian-American novel Divide Me by Zero’.
  4. Svetlana Vassileva-Karagyozova (University of Kansas): ‘The Sequel as a Marker of Developmental Arrest in Michal Viewegh’s and Irena Douskova’s Coming-of-Age Novels and their Continuations’.

7.30pm-9pm: Online discussion of contemporary maternal fictions from the SSEES region, free registration via Eventbrite. Open to the general public.

Motherhood, Gender, Translation and Censorship in Eastern European Women’s Writing: An Online Discussion with Svetlana Satchkova, Ula Chowianec, Justyna Wierzchowska, and Eglė Kačkutė. Register at


8.30am-10am: CULTURES OF MATERNITY STREAM (2): Motherhood in Folklore and Traditional Culture

CHAIRS: Florence Pasche-Guignard (Université Laval in Québec) and Catherine Rider (Exeter)

  1. Lubov Golubeva and Sofya Kupriian (Propp Centre for Humanities-based Research): ‘The Practice of Baby Bathing as Maternity Initiation in the Russian North’.
  2. Kaarina Kailo (Oulu University): ‘The Golden Woman: Zolataja Baba as the Ancient Great Mother of the North’.
  3. Anna Lazareva (Russian State University for the Humanities): ‘Mothers’ Dreams About Children: Folklore Motifs And Semantics’.
  4. Jurga Sivickaitė-Sadauskienė (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore): ‘The Concept of Motherhood and Femininity after the Second World War: The Experience of Musteika Village’.

10.15am-11.45am: ROUND TABLE ON CULTURES OF MATERNITY: ADOPTION AND DISPLACEMENT (15 minutes per paper, up to 5 papers)

CHAIRS: Lotte Francoise Maria Houwink ten Cate (Columbia) and Dr Beatrice Scutaru (Maynooth University)

  1. Irina Antoshchuk (PhD candidate in Cultural Sociology at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Amsterdam): ‘The burden of having children: motherhood experiences of female migrant academics from the former Soviet Union’.
  2. Svetlana Ruseishvili (PhD, Sociology Department, Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil): ‘Birth Mobilities of Russian-speaking Women in Brazil’.
  3. Natalia Chernyaeva (Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia): Normalizing ‘Cultural Anomaly’: Popular Narratives of Surrogate Motherhood in Russian Mass Culture and Media’.
  4. Maria V. Zolotukhina and Natalia S. Galushina (Russian State University of Humanities): ‘“Love does come, but it is ok if it doesn’t”: Narratives of Love and Kinship among Adoptive and Foster Mothers in Russia’.
  1. Ieva Balčiūnė (Vilnius University): ‘“Woman with a pillow on her belly”: Adoption Practices and Their Social Context in Soviet Lithuania’.

12pm-2pm: Optional non-academic talk and creative session, open to all delegates

  • 12pm-1pm: Anastasiya Shestakova with Olga Rodicheva (Russian milk-sharing charity Molochnaia mama) will speak about breastmilk donation and informal milk-sharing in contemporary Russia. All delegates welcome.
  • 1pm-2pm: Laura Godfrey-Isaacs, founder of Maternal Journal, will lead a Maternal Journaling session of art and creativity. No preparation required! Please bring a notebook or pen and paper. All delegates welcome.

2.15pm-3.45pm CULTURES OF MATERNITY STREAM (3): Constructing Maternity in Socialist and Post-Socialist Eastern Europe                                            

CHAIRS: Melanie Ilic (University of Gloucestershire) and Dr Angela Davis (École Jeannine Manuel, Paris)

  1. Aneta Krzyworzeka-Jelinowska (Prof. Robert Zajonc Institute for Social Studies, University of Warsaw): ‘Social Construction of Motherhood in Poland after 1989’.
  2. Yulia Gradskova, Soheyla Yazdanpanah and Ieva Bisigirskaitė: ‘Maternity in times of “traditional values” and femonationalism: project presentation’ (Södertörn University).
  3. Eglė Kačkutė (University of Vilnius): ‘Troubled Motherhood and the Effects of Heteronormative Gender Regime in post-Soviet Lithuania’.
  4. Mioara Anton (N. Iorga Institute of History, Romanian Academy): ‘“Let’s fill our homes with children!”: Motherhood as a Way of Life in Socialist Romania’.

4pm-5.30pm LITERATURE STREAM (3): Maternal Narratives in Classical Russian Literature

CHAIR Aura Young (UNC) and Mark Lee (Mount Allison University)

  1. Dagnė Beržaitė (Vilnius University): ‘The Issue of Motherhood in Russian Literature of the Nineteenth Century: The Case of Dostoevsky’.
  2. Natalia Dame (USC), ‘Motherhood in Tolstoy: The Unmaking of a Myth’.
  3. Muireann Maguire (University of Exeter): ‘Breastfeeding and Female Agency in the Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel’.
  4. Giulia Dossi (Harvard): ‘(S)mothering the Golovlevs’.

5.30pm Closing remarks AND online tour of the ‘Portrait of a (Working) Mother’ Exhibition, created and curated by Marina Cavazza and Eglė Kačkutė

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