Monday, November 2, 2015

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annual theme:

Situating in Empire: Agencies and Subjectivities in Imperial Spaces

    This annual theme is about facing empire consciously, whether from within, as its subjects, or from a distance, as scholars. The task may seem simple, but it is not. Traditionally prone to projecting dominance and grandeur through rituals and rhetoric, empire is but an elephant in the living room. It takes intellectual and political effort and courage to get beyond the seemingly obvious manifestations of its direct and symbolic hegemony, to the core of the unsystematic imperial structure. Coercion and violence, just as privileges and preferences, by themselves are not “imperial” or “national” (although the forms and style of their application are certainly case-specific). Noting a country’s expansionist foreign policy in a historical study does not mean that a scholar has discovered an empire. Likewise, dodging a military draft into the imperial army does not mean that one has found a way around the imperial order as such. Even a revolution overthrowing the imperial regime identifies its target in the generic terms of a brutal police regime, autocracy, or class inequality, rather than “empire” – otherwise, there would be no reason to talk about a “revival of empire” or the persistence of “colonial legacy”. Why are some institutions of governance and their hierarchies recognized as being specifically imperial? What kind of cultural differences signal colonial domination to contemporaries or qualified observers? The analytical disentanglement of “empire” from social institutions and policies that may or may not be “imperial” in nature is the first step required to go beyond “touching the elephant in the dark” and to synthesize the proverbial isolated individual sensations into a coherent picture of the “imperial situation”. To verify the accuracy of that synthesis, the firsthand testimony of imperial “insiders” is of critical importance. Hence a special focus on imperial subjects who attempted to make sense of their environment. Particular attention to individual subjectivity and expressions of agency should help to synthesize analytically a more adequate image of empire – which is otherwise anything but self-evident.
1/2016 Subjects of Empire, Objects of Governance: Imperial Agencies and Agents  

Who is imperial and represents an empire? Living in, off, and for empire ● Was there an imperial rights regime? Legal palimpsest vs. legal pluralism in empire ● Interpreters of the spirit of the law meet custodians of the letter of the law: in the center and in the periphery ● Discussing legal pluralism in the Russian Empire in comparative perspective ● How well did they understand the system: enforcers of the imperial rule and smooth operators circumventing it? ● Aristocrat, bureaucrat, and nationalist: conflicting incarnations of imperial elite ● Who, and when, were the Staatsvolk in the Russian Empire? ● Legal, cultural, and moral distinctions in the forms of social affinity: imperial loyalty, subjecthood, residence, and imagination ● Historical perspectives on citizenship and subjecthood ● Migration and emigration: imperial patterns, anti-imperial choices ● Laws and practices of naturalization in the imperial and postimperial society ● Administrative hierarchy as a legal field of political contention: provincial politics in the Russian Empire, national republics within union republics in the USSR ● Ideologies and practices of indirect rule and general-governorship from the Enlightenment to High modernity.

2/2016 Experiencing the Imperial Situation: Understanding Diversity

Mechanisms and discourses normalizing marginality in empire ● What is the imperial norm? ● Measuring comparative degrees of deviation and alienation in empire and nation ● Knowledge, power, and the factor of observer’s location in the analysis of the imperial situation ● Encounters in the context of empire: contact zones, borderlands, and middle grounds ● Comparative efficiency of nonverbal communication vs. public discourses in provoking and resolving conflict ● What makes a situation imperial? ● Who are the enemies of empire and how to recognize them? ● Where is the border separating the empire, the state, and the dynasty? ● Is there a cultural idiom for “seeing like an empire” and thinking like one? ● Average Joe and plain Jane navigating the imperial situation ● Local (regional, estate-specific, professional) imperial scenarios of power.

3/2016 The Political Economy of Empire: Balancing Power, Resources, and Diversity

The economy as a metaphor for a system of values ● The politics of quid pro quo: trading wealth, honor, and control ● Is there a “national economy” in empire? ● The cost of empire audited: the balance sheet ● Colonizations and settlements: was there a settler colonialism in the Russian Empire? ● Exchange of goods, services, and favors as an instance of the imperial situation ● How many “invisible hands” does the imperial market have? ● Cultures and practices of property across empire ● The hardware of imperial economy and the software of imperial economics ● Market vs. modernization: imperial neoliberalism and the modernizing technocratic imagination ● The political economy of colonization ● Mobilized diasporas and imperial economic practices.

4/2016 Imperial Alternatives: Imagery of the Post-Imperial Order

Revolutions of social imagination and the future as a moving target ● Imperial diversity and the diversity of resistance ● The thousand-year empire as a religious metaphor, political dream, and practical project ● Great expectations: imagining nation as an empire’s “afterlife” ● Managing diversity in manual control mode: federalist projects for nationalized empires ● Nations and neo-imperialism: the legacy of empire or its acquired character? ● Genocides in empires and nations: a comparative perspective ● The age of imperial revolutions and the politics of censored memory of empire ● The post-imperial syndrome: between a metaphor and a social condition ● The future of hybrid societies and composite polities.

    Permanent Sections:
    Theory and Methodology History Archive Sociology, Anthropology & Political Science ABC: Empire & Nationalism Studies Newest Mythologies Historiography and Book Reviews.
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