Freeze, Die, Come to Life. The many paths to immortality in post-Soviet Russia

Lecture | April 17 | 2-4 p.m. | 221 Kroeber Hall

 Anya Bernstein, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and of Social Studies, Harvard University

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES), Department of Anthropology

Through practices such as cryonics and plans to build ro, botic bodies for future "consciousness transfer," the Russian transhumanist movement has engendered competing practices of immortality as well as ontological debates over the immortal body and person. Drawing on an ethnography of these practices and plans, I explore controversies around rehgion and secularism within the movement as well as the conflict between transhu, manists and the Russian Orthodox Church. I argue that the core issues in debates over the role of religion via,.a,vis immortality derive from diverse assumptions being made about "the human," which- from prerevolutionary esoteric futurist movements through the Soviet secularist project and into the present day-has been and remains a profoundly plastic project.
Anya Bernstein is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. Her first book, "Religious Bod, ies Politic: Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism" (University of Chicago Press, 2013), was the winner of the Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion and an Honorable Mention for the Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies from the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (2014). Her second project explores the interplay between questions of immortality and life extension industries across the Soviet Union and postsocialist Russia, drawing on archival and ethnographic methods to investi, gate these technoscientific and religious futurisms.