Science, Technology, and Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard


Monday, December 3, 2018, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge Street, Bowie-Vernon Room (K262)

Please note the change in location.

"Failed Sociotechnical Imaginaries: Chechnya as the 'Second Kuwait'"


Olga Breininger, PhD Candidate, Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures, Harvard University.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.


Kasper Schiølin


Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.

Lunch is provided if you RSVP via our online form by Thursday, October 25th


In his resonant inaugural speech (1991), Dzhokhar Dudaev, the first president of the breakaway state of Ichkeria (formally the Chechen Republic), declared his intention to turn the newly proclaimed state into a “second Kuwait”. Since oil has long been an object of arduous rivalry between Chechnya and Russia, at the height of secessionist moods, the promotion of an oil-based sociotechnical imaginary had an immense nation-building potential. It framed the making of the new Chechen identity as an anti-colonial techno-scientific venture, and a joint innovational experiment between politics and technology. Dudaev’s promise never came true – and paradoxically, the very resource that triggered Chechnya’s claim to sovereignty, failed its nation-building project. This talk will explore the mechanics whereby the pursuit of oil wealth and progress cast an emerging state into destruction, and led to the situation of “incomplete co-production”: creating a society with ambitious political demands yet incapable of providing the material and intellectual resources to fulfil those ambitions.


Olga Breininger holds degrees from Gorky Literary Institute (Russia) and the University of Oxford (UK), and is currently working on her dissertation entitled By Sword and Word: Literature, Violence and Religion in the North Caucasus. Olga is also a writer. Her debut novel,There Was No Adderall in the Soviet Union (2017) became a bestseller in Russia, appeared in the long- and short lists of major national literary awards, and earned her the reputation of “the voice of the generation” (Gritsaenko) and “the hope of Russian literature” (Yuzefovich). Written as a first-person female narrative, the novel explores the thin line separating unbounded freedom and global loneliness, the striving for knowledge and the desire for destruction, and seeks to re-define identity and belonging in transnational space.