Atlanta Hub

Socialism, Capitalism, and Childhood: Material Lives and Mutual Imaginations

20-21 October 2021



A conference held at Georgia State University and online, October 20-21, 2021

*All times are given in Eastern Standard Time*


Wednesday, October 20


Arrival and welcome on-site; coffee/tea and pastries available


HYBRID CROSS-HUB PANEL: Tentacular Anarchive: Memories of Childhood through Scholarly, Pedagogical, and Artistic Engagements

MnemoZin: Digital anarchive: (Re)stor(y)ing Cold War childhoods

Elena Jackson Albarran: Anarchive, oral histories, and teaching comparative Cold War childhoods across geographies and generations

Raisa Foster: Anarchive and artistic research


Coffee break


VIRTUAL PANEL: Youth Sexuality and Political Subjectivity in Late Socialism and Capitalism

Tim Gitzen (Hong Kong University), Non-neoliberal Sexualities: A Different Sort of Queer Youth Guidance

Mridula Sharma (University of Delhi), Beauty in/and Art: A Socialist Critique of Capitalism

Brendan McElmeel (University of Washington), But What If It’s Love? Intimacy and Vospitanie in the ‘Generation That Will Live Under Communism’

Discussant: Eliot Borenstein (New York University)

HYBRID PANEL: Tropes of Childhood Innocence and Violence in Socialism and Postsocialism

Melissa Caldwell (University of California, Santa Cruz), Feral Children and Wild Natures: Synaesthetic Socialisms at the Mythical Dacha

Rhiannon Dowling (Lehman College, CUNY), Crime and Criminals in Soviet Children’s Literature, 1930-1970

Azra Hromadžić (Syracuse University), The Una River Emeralds: Producing Ecologically Conscious Children in the Socialist Yugoslavia

Discussant: Dan Cook (Rutgers University – Camden)


Lunch available on-site to take away


HYBRID PANEL: Theorizing the Child through Labor and Consumption

Željka Ivković Hodžić (University of Rijeka), Images of childhood within economic contexts of socialist and post-socialist Croatia

Halle Singh (Rutgers University – Camden), Putting Girls’ Free Time to Work: “Productive” Leisure and the Temporality of Value

Daniel Cook (Rutgers University – Camden), Subjectivity and Pleasure as Authority in Early Children’s Consumer Culture

Jennifer Patico (Georgia State University), Neoliberalism/Socialism, Childhood/Adulthood: Interrogating Conceptions of Self and Political Economy

Discussant: Kriszti Fehervary (University of Michigan)

VIRTUAL PANEL: The Politics of Memory and Place across Generations

Iveta Jusova (Carleton College), Childhood in Memories of Participants of the “Panel Story Project”

Vita Yakovlyeva (University of Alberta), Decolonizing the subject of autoethnography: Emergence of memory

Katrin Bahr (Centre College), Where we come together: East German post-socialist memories in Mozambique

Erin Stanley (Wayne State University), No vacancy: (Re)membering home among the materiality and relationality of Detroit’s blight crisis

Discussants: Monika Rüthers (University of Hamburg), Emanuela Guano (Georgia State University)

After 5:00 Dinner: independent



Thursday, October 21


Coffee and pastries available


VIRTUAL CROSS-HUB ARTISTS’ PANEL: BERLIN (live in Berlin, screened on-site in Atlanta 9:00-10:30)

Sarah Fichtner & Anja Werner, Motion Comic & Talk: Connections across divides – Memories of ghost trains and ghost stations in former East and West Berlin

Luise Schröder, Performance lecture: Hope, Freedom, Friendship, Youth 2003-2005 

HYBRID PANEL: Neoliberal Affects and Pedagogy

Scott Ritchie (Kennesaw State University), Pedagogies of Domestication or Liberation? Examining Ideologies of Individualism in U.S. Elementary Schools

Elena Nitecki (Mercy College), GERM, Capitalism, and Childhood

Helge Wasmuth (Mercy College), GERM & ECEC: Perspectives from Two Countries

K.C. Bindu (Ambedkar University Delhi), Connections and Contradictions with the Affective and Political: Memories of Childhood as Pedagogic Technique in a Gender Studies Classroom

Discussant: Elsa Davidson (Montclair State University)


HYBRID PANEL: Toys and Games as Lenses on Political Ideology and the Child

Adrian Popan (University of West Alabama), Board Games across Economic Systems; Monopoly and Its Socialist Variants: Gazdálkodj okosan! (Hungary) and Bunul godpodar (Romania)

Christian Drobe (Masaryk University), Anti-Nature. The use of plastics in toy design and art in the 1960s

Ivana Polić (University of California, San Diego), “Out with the old, in with the new!”: Toys as markers of post-socialist childhoods

Discussant: Olga Shevchenko (Williams College)

VIRTUAL PANEL: Pop Culture, Candy Wrappers, and Church:  Childhood during the Cold War Twilight in Romania, Yugoslavia, and the United States

Snežana Žabić (Loyola University, Chicago), I Don’t Subscribe to Either Point of View: Growing up Nonaligned in Yugoslavia during the Cold War

Ana Croegaert (Field Museum, Chicago), A Communism of a Different Sort: American Church and Refugee Kids in the Cold War Twilight

Ioana Szeman (Roehampton University), Street Parades, Queueing and Collecting: Child’s Play in Socialist Romania

Discussant: Helen Schwartzman (Northwestern University)


Lunch on your own. Suggestions within walking distance (or by tram): Sweet Auburn Municipal Market or Woodruff Park/Broad Street restaurants


HYBRID PANEL: Shaping Bodies, Feelings, and “Productivity” in Socialism and Neoliberalism 

Barbara Turk Niskač (Institute of Slovenian Ethnology), Children’s self-management: from socially useful to invisible work

Elsa Davidson (Montclair State University), The Politics of Empathy in North American Childhood

Karīna Vasiļevska-Das (Riga Stradins University), Managed Corporeality of Young Children in Latvia as a Reflection on the Soviet Past

Katherine Martin (Rutgers University Camden), Drawing Inside the Lines: Oppression and Socioeconomic Exclusion in the Conceptualization of the Creative Child

Cassandra White (Georgia State University), Mythical Milestones and Neoliberal Imperatives for Weaning: Pressures on Parents who Practice Extended Breastfeeding in the U.S. 

Discussant: Jennifer Patico (Georgia State University)

VIRTUAL or HYBRID PANEL: Memory, Materiality, and Borders 

Shunyuan Zhang (Trinity College), The Cultural is National: Socialism, Memory, and Heritage in a South China Community

Mirjana Uzelac (University of Alberta), Growing Up in Yugoslavia

Péter Bagoly-Simó (Humboldt University), Making Sense of Post-Socialism: School Geographies and Spaces

Discussant: Melissa Caldwell (University of California, Santa Cruz)


HYBRID PANEL: Socialism and Capitalism in Conversation: Film, Literature and Social Media

Elena Popan (Texas Tech University), Andrey Khrzhanovskiy’s The Glass Harmonica (1968): A Critique of Capitalism, Socialism, or Just a Fairy Tale for Children?

Sarah Phillips (Indiana University), “Cat’s Cradle has been the guidebook for my life”: Soviet Youth and the American Writer Kurt Vonnegut

Discussant: Rossen Djagalov (NYU) 

7 pm

Closing dinner (tentative location: Noni’s Restaurant)


In the contemporary United States and beyond, emotional pedagogies aimed at children construct subjectivities that are suited to neoliberal visions of productivity and self-management, even as journalists ponder why some young people find the notion of “socialism” to be ever more appealing in the era of Trump. In 20
th century Europe, visions of childhood were vital to socialist discourses about the good life, and they undoubtedly figure prominently in efforts to remake the fabric of postsocialist everyday lives and economies. Indeed, constructions of childhood, youth, and familial politics are integral to the ways researchers and laypeople routinely understand what capitalism and socialism mean and are – why they are desirable or repulsive, respectively, and how they may yet transform – in a lived and immediate sense.

This conference hub seeks to bring together researchers working in capitalist, socialist, and/or postsocialist settings, past and present, and across the social sciences and humanities, to illuminate how childhood and the experiences of children, youth, and parenting define the meanings of socialism and capitalism in highly material and often implicit ways.  Topics of discussion might include:

  •       material and sensory aspects of children and parents’ engagements with commodities, social media, and other aspects of political economy;
  •       specific uses of childhood to define socialism, capitalism, and their distinct visions of prosperity – whether separately or in relationship to one another;
  •       articulations of emotionality, affect, and selfhood in relation to contexts/concepts of neoliberalism and/or postsocialism;
  •       children and childhood in Cold War imaginings of East and West;
  •       youth politics and representations of capitalism and/or socialism/postsocialism.

Projects can be comparative across time and space, but need not be; rather, we imagine that locally specific observations and theorizations will contribute to our broader, collective project of comparison and inter-articulation. We welcome conventional academic papers as well as visual (photographic, video, etc.) projects and other creative proposals. Relevant fields of study include but are not limited to:  anthropology, sociology, history, cultural studies, education, cultural geography, art history, philosophy, women’s/gender/sexuality/queer studies, performance studies, and childhood studies.

Contact e-mail for Atlanta hub

Professor Jennifer Patico

Image Copyright by Felix Besombes on Unsplash