Thomas Lahusen

Born in Germany and educated in French-speaking  Switzerland, Thomas Lahusen studied  at the Universities of Lausanne, Geneva, and Warsaw. His M.A. in Slavic languages and literatures, with a minor in history and linguistics, is from the University of Lausanne (1974), where he also earned a Doctorat ès Lettres (1983). From 1980 to 1988 he taught Russian language and literature at the University of Lausanne, as well as French at the University of Geneva. In 1988 he joined the Slavic Department  at Duke University, which he chaired until 1994. He was also cross-appointed in the Duke Program in Literature, where he taught courses in cultural history, theory, and film. He has been visiting professor at the Xi'an Foreign Languages Institute in China (1981-82), at New York University  (1994), the University of Southern California (1999), UCLA (2000),  and twice at the University  of Toronto (1998 and 1999). In 2001 he was appointed to a joint position in the Department  of History and the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University  of Toronto. He holds a Canada Research Chair in History, Arts and Culture since 2002. He is fluent in English, French, German, Polish, Russian, and he has speaking and comprehension skills in Chinese.

His research combines  archive-based  history, comparative literature, cultural theory and film studies, and extends geographically from the areas of Eastern Europe, Russia and the Soviet Union to China. He has published three books, eight edited volumes, and more than fifty articles in English, German, French, and Russian.  Several of his publications, including the monograph How Life Writes the Book:  Real Socialism and Socialist Realism in Stalin's Russia (1997), the co­edited volumes Intimacy and Terror:  Soviet Diaries of the 1930s (1995, 1997, German edition 1998), and Socialist Realism Without Shores (1997) have made a significant mark on the field of Russian and Soviet history by launching a whole new subfield devoted to the study of Soviet subjectivity through diaries and other personal documents. Intimacy and Terror alone was reviewed not only in most scholarly journals in North America and Europe, but was also discussed on radio shows and in the daily press, including The NewYork Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New York Review of Books (reviewer: Michael Ignatieff), Die Welt, Der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Le Monde Diplomatique, Unita, etc. Publications related to Lahusen's affiliation with the University of Toronto include two edited volumes: Harbin and Manchuria: Place, Space, and Identity (2000) and What Is Soviet Now? Identities, Legacies, Memories (2008, co-edited with Peter H. Solomon. Jr.). The first was the outcome of a conference held at UofT in 1998, the second is the result of a collaborative study, entitled "Real Socialism and the 'Second World'," funded by a Connaught grant for seed support for research clusters ($150,000).

An important part of Lahusen's recent research has been the study of cinema as a historical source, which has materialized  into a major archival-based  project on the Soviet institution of "cinefication" (film distribution and exhibition) and the creation of a film partnership which has produced to date 3 documentary films on Russia. Lahusen has been involved in the production, direction, and editing of The Province of Lost Film (2006), The Uprising (2006), and Komsomolsk mon amour (2007), all of which have been shown at international  film festivals and other venues. Two other films are presently in production: The Photographer (about a local historian and photographer of Kyrgyzstan, Russia) and The Celluloid Road (about the "cinefication" of Kyrgyzstan). For details on the partnership, its goals, synopses and trailers, see the website: Both archival research and the work on the films have been funded by the following grants: IREX (2004); Chancellor Jackman Research Fellowship in the Humanities (2005); SSHRC (2007, $49,000).

The undergraduate and graduate courses that Lahusen has developed at Doff  have attracted students from a variety of disciplines, including history, art history, anthropology, geography, comparative literature, cinema studies, German, Slavic, East-European studies, and political science. Lahusen is/ has been involved in 5 primary dissertation supervisions, is member of 14 dissertation committees, and has supervised 8 M.A.s. Two of his Ph.D. students have been offered top jobs (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and California State University, Fullerton). One of his M.A. graduates, Lilia Topouzova, has used her research on the Bulgarian Gulag to write the script of The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories, screened in 2008 at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival, and recipient of several prestigious awards. 

Lahusen is also participating in a project entitled “Changing Technologies of Film Projection in the People's Republic of China: Multi-Media Approaches." The project, which is a study of state campaigns that promoted film projection in the PRC during the 1950s-60s and from 1998 to the present, is funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant ($140,501 over 3 years). Principal applicant: Prof. Tina Chen (History, University of Manitoba); co-applicants: Prof Tong Lam (History, University of
Toronto) and himself. The project is a study of state campaigns that promoted film projection in the PRC during the 1950s-60s and from 1998 to the present. The specific objectives of the project are academic articles, a documentary film, photo essays and exhibitions, as well as the production of teaching materials and training for graduate students.