Alexei Yurchak

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Alexei Yurchak

Associate Professor, Socio-Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology (also: Core Faculty Member at the Dept. of Dance, Theater and Performance Studies) |Sociocultural Anthropology
119 Kroeber
Office Hours
On Leave
reserve slot on sign-up sheet on the office door

Current/Future Courses


Fall 2016 |Undergraduate

Special Interests

Communism and post-communism, Political Anthropology, Linguistic anthropology, Media and Mediation, Utopias, History, Cold War, Discourse, Subject, Ideology, Sovereignty, Russia, Soviet and post-Soviet world, Irony, Performance and performativity.


Alexei Yurchak's theoretical interests include the analysis of human agency and its interplay with language and discourses of power especially in post-Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. He is particularly interested in the analysis of how ideologies (political, cultural, national, market, etc.) are projected on and work through language, and what methods of discourse analysis social scientists can use to unpack their discursive power. He is concerned with the cultural shifts brought forth by the collapse of the Soviet ideology, state institutions, and centralized economic principles and the formation of socialist and post-socialist identities and subject positions.


I received my Ph.D. in cultural and linguistic anthropology from Duke University in 1997 (after having received a graduate degree in physics from Russia). My interests and areas of expertise include Soviet history and the processes of post-socialist transformation in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; political institutions and ideologies in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia; political philosophy and language philosophy; the interface between language/discourse and power; comparative studies of communism and capitalism anthropology of media; visual anthropology; experimental artistic scenes (especially, Russia and US); urban geography and anthropology of space. I am both an Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology as well as a Core Faculty member in the graduate program at the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley -- link:

Representative Publications

"Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More": Winner of 2007 Wayne Vucinic Book Award for best book of the year from American Society for Eastern European, Eurasian and Slavic Studies (ASEEES).
Slavoj Zizek: "Alexei Yurchak's Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More immediately seduced me by its very title with a profound philosophical implication that eternity is a historical category--things can be eternal for some time. The same spirit of paradox runs through the entire book--it renders in wonderful details the gradual disintegration of the Soviet system from within its ideological and cultural space, making visible all the hypocrisy and misery of this process. I consider Yurchak's book by far the best work about the late epoch of the Soviet Union--it is not just history, but a pleasure to read, a true work of art."
«Это было навсегда, пока не кончилось» сегодня — обязательная часть любого серьезного разговора о постсоветском, постсоциалистическом и вообще о современной России. Обязательной она до сего момента была, однако, в основном вне России. Теперь переварить и как-то интегрировать в свою картину мира эту неожиданную, неочевидную, а наверное, даже и провокативную книгу предстоит сравнительно широкому русскому читателю. Он, читатель этот, разумеется, справится, еще и не с тем справлялся — но все равно интересно, что из этого выйдет.— “Бывшее навсегда: Станислав Львовский об обязательной к прочтению книге Алексея Юрчака о последнем советском поколении” (Colta, 20 янв. 2015)
Papers, chapters, interviews, reviews



Soviet socialism was based on paradoxes that were revealed by the peculiar experience of its collapse. To the people who lived in that system the collapse seemed both completely unexpected and completely unsurprising. At the moment of collapse it suddenly became obvious that Soviet life had always seemed simultaneously eternal and stagnating, vigorous and ailing, bleak and full of promise.