Kyraocity of the Day: Samizdat

The curious, life-long learner in me knows I cannot possibly learn it all and I never expect myself to know-it-all anymore. That is not what my Ph.D. stands for.

This word “samizdat” came on my radar last fall when I was looking for a publisher for my former husband’s book. One of the indie publishing houses was Samizdat but I never really got the origin of the word back then for some reason. Probably distracted by all the drama at home then.

Today, I came upon it via some crazy connections. I am brainstorming my syllabi for my 3 sociology courses (two intros and one political sociology course). I was inspired by SkillShare’s “lean product culture and innovative entrepreneurial culture list” and thought I am borrowing founder Michael K.’s logic in my course design. Then went searching for some hacks for creating a syllabus.

I lucked upon a blog about being an Unteacher in an Unclassroom (a great idea I intend to steal). And then I had a bit of an epiphany. A remembrance actually I am taking on the theme of studying the sociology of students in higher education and remembered the book Student as Nigger by Jerry Farber. One of the Amazon reviews of the out-of-print book was written by someone from Costa Rica. He mentioned using the “samizdat form.”

Samizdat (Russian: самизда́т; IPA: [səmɨzˈdat])

… was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader. This grassroots practice to evade officially imposed censorship was fraught with danger as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials.

Vladimir Bukovsky defined it as follows:

“(…) I myself create it,
edit it,
censor it,
publish it,
distribute it, and …
get imprisoned for it. (…)”[1]

This is like a mix of the musical transcription practice from my background in ethnomusicology and surely some similar practice took place during U.S. slavery literacy strategies when reading and writing was outlawed.

Love the notion of reproducing a dissident practice of reproducing censored publications by hand and passing the documents from reader to reader. In my case, I’d like to have students reproduce those things that are no longer in print as well as the views as a bloc that rarely get to see the light of day in print relative to higher education.

It also makes sense to get students back to being producers of more tactile things now when so much of our attention and creation is digitized by the tips of our 10 digits, or two if you hunt-and-peck.

Love Wikipedia’s section on etymology, too:

Etymologically, the word samizdat is made out of sam (Russian: сам, “self, by oneself”) and izdat (Russian: издат, abbr. издательство, izdatel’stvo, “publishing house”), thus “self-published.” The Ukrainian term is samvýdav (самвидав), from sam, “self”, and vydannya, “publication.”[8]

The term was coined as a pun by Russian poet Nikolai Glazkov in the 1940s, who typed copies of his poems indicating Samsebyaizdat (Самсебяиздат, “Myself by Myself Publishers”) on the front page.[citation needed]

Magnitizdat is the passing on of taped sound recordings (magnit- referring to magnetic tape), often of underground music groups, bards, or lectures.

Roentgenizdat were underground samizdat recordings on x-ray film: phonograph records made of a thin, flexible sheet with a spiral stylus groove, designed to be playable on a normal phonograph turntable. The name roentgenizdat comes from the combination of roentgen ray (another word for X-ray) and izdat.

Tamizdat refers to literature published abroad (там, tam, “there”), often from smuggled manuscripts.

That’s my life-learner’s lesson of the day.

Kyraocity Works!!

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