Portraits in the Office

It’s normal for academics to keep a portrait of their favorite writer or scientist on the walls of their offices. Sometimes, however, people get all weird about that.

Once, I went to the office of a Canadian scholar who was Chair of a Department of Slavic Studies. I started talking to him, and then I noticed a big portrait of Vladimir Putin on his wall. And I kind of didn’t feel like talking to him about anything any more. I tried convincing myself that it was some kind of an ironic post-modern gesture but there weren’t any horns or tail drawn on the portrait. It looked like it had been hung there completely in earnest.

The scholar in question specialized in the Silver Age of Russian poetry, which is an area completely unconnected to Putin.

That was kind of scary. And it was a very good university, too.

As I always say, people are weird.

5 thoughts on “Portraits in the Office”

  1. My Russian professor had a portrait of Putin in his office, only it was definitely meant as ironic, as under the painting was a caption reading: “Я вас ви́жу, ты не рабо́таешь!”
    Or something like that. My Russian is kind of rusty…

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  2. I have a poster a student gave me, actually a really beautiful photograph taken in Cuba. It’s a street scene and there’s a stencil of the Che on the wall. Which, in the whole context of the picture, doesn’t necessarily (actually probably doesn’t) make this a rah-rah Che poster. But, it’s offended a few people, I know. Then I have an original pastel drawing of Marcos that another student brought back from Mexico. People freak out about that, too, because (they’ve told me) they don’t believe in burqas (they think it’s a picture of a veiled woman).

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  3. Aside from family member portraits, I have a portrait of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess on my wall in my office. I suspect this does not count as a religious display, since I am not Hindu, although it was given to me by a Hindu graduate student several years ago.

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