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NMSU talk explores ‘Punk Prayer’ protest, Russian politics and art

Moscow is the next stop for New Mexico State University’s “Global Connections” series.

White cathedral with gold domes.
During the Feb. 10 “Global Connections” talk, Brian Rourke, NMSU associate professor of English, will discuss the “Punk Prayer,” a protest performance by a feminist punk-rock group that took place in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 2012. (NMSU photo by Brian Rourke)

Brian Rourke, English associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, will present “The ‘Punk Prayer’ performance in retrospect: Radical protest and authoritarian politics in Putin’s Russia,” from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, at the College of Health and Social Services Annex Auditorium, Room 101A.

In July of 2013, Rourke traveled to Moscow to present a paper he co-authored with NMSU professor emeritus Andrew Wiget, on the “Punk Prayer,” a protest performance by a feminist punk-rock group in a prominent Russian cathedral, which resulted in jail terms for some of the protesters.

Rourke spoke at a panel of the Congress of Ethnologists and Anthropologists of Russia, which was jointly held with the Russian Association of Women’s History Researchers. For the “Global Connections” event, Rourke will briefly cover the main points of his 2013 presentation and discuss later developments in the case.

“The authoritarianism of the Russian government in the ‘Punk Prayer’ affair can, I think, help us understand better recent events there, especially the oppression of GLBTQ citizens, but also similar dangers elsewhere in the contemporary world,” Rourke said. “We can at the same time see limits to the power of the Russian state and others in, for example, acts of dissent or artistic freedom.”

Rourke will also share what he learned about the contemporary art scene in Russia, paying particular attention to director Aleksei German’s final film, “Hard to be a God.”

“I was completely unprepared for the visual arts and architecture. The traditions differ much more than I expected,” Rourke said of Moscow. “Nothing prepares one for the experience of visiting a new place, at least not in my experience.”

The “Global Connections” series features College of Arts and Sciences faculty members’ trips around the world. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for members of the campus and surrounding community to listen and ask questions of NMSU professors about the kind of global first-hand experience they might otherwise never encounter.

Future lectures include: Jeremy Klomp, who will give a talk about Taiwan on March 9; and Motoko Furuhashi, who will close the series with a lecture on Japan on April 13.

All “Global Connections” events are free and open to the public.